Feature

Immigration: The $30 billion ‘border surge’

To assuage Republican fears, the Senate approved an amendment to the immigration bill that would fortify and toughen border security.

America is in the grip of “southern-border derangement disorder,” said Lawrence Downes in NYTimes.com. The Senate approved an amendment to the “Gang of Eight” immigration bill this week calling for a “border surge,” to assuage Republican fears that granting legal status to the nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants would encourage a new wave of border-crossers. The $30 billion plan by Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.) would nearly double the Border Patrol from 21,000 agents to 40,000, add 700 miles of fencing, and buy drones and helicopters, underground sensors, and other surveillance technology. This is sheer lunacy, given that illegal crossings are already at a 40-year low. Besides, this new Berlin Wall is meant to repel not terrorists but “nannies, fruit-and-vegetable harvesters, [and] hotel maids” who want to fill jobs no American wants. But maybe the border surge is “good news” anyway, since it may finally get this bill through the Senate.

“The excessive, flamboyant nature of the Hoeven-Corker approach is the entire point,” said Jay Bookman in AJC.com. Since the bipartisan group of senators called the Gang of Eight first introduced the immigration reform bill, Republican hard-liners have insisted on tougher border security. Now they’ve got it, in absurd excess, and if they still balk, they might as well admit they want 11 million people to remain “in the shadows as a permanent underclass for the rest of their lives.” Perhaps the border surge was the only way to give Republicans cover with their base, said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. But throwing $30 billion at the martial defense of “1,969 miles in the middle of nowhere” is hardly an exercise in conservative restraint.

The surge plan may be “a masterpiece of public relations,” said Fred Bauer in NationalReview.com, but once Congress grants amnesty, the fortified border plan could easily be canceled. The new version of the bill would also do nothing to stop the 40 percent of illegal immigrants who get here by overstaying work visas. Worse, it invites millions of additional “low-skill” workers to come here to fill jobs Americans need, pushing down wages and keeping unemployment rates high. Yes, it may be ultimately necessary to “legalize those who broke our nation’s laws”—but until there’s a bill that truly “prevents more illegal immigration from happening,” Republicans should vote no.

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