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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

by Christie Thompson, ProPublica

Federal spending on border security is at an all-time high — and it would get even higher under the Gang of Eight’s new plan. The Senate immigration proposal, released last week, would allocate $4.5 billion in the next five years to tighten control of U.S. borders.

The U.S. spent nearly $18 billion on immigration enforcement agencies last fiscal year, more than all other law enforcement agencies combined.

Where would another $4.5 billion go? Here’s a closer look at what is being proposed, and how the government has spent (and often wasted) border money in recent years.

More border agents

The proposal calls for an additional 3,500 U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers. In FY 2012, the department employed 21,790 officers, up 10 percent from 2008. The bill would also add an unspecified number of border patrol agents, whose ranks have skyrocketed from just over 4,000 in 1993 to more than 21,000 today.

A 2011 investigation by The Center for Investigative Reporting and the Los Angeles Times showed how hurried hiring by the border agency affected screening standards and led to an increase in corruption. From 2006 to 2011, the number of investigations of customs employees charged with fraud more than tripled. Since 2004, 147 agency employees have been charged with or convicted of corruption-related offenses.

More drones

The bill requires buying as many “unmanned aerial systems” (also known as drones) as needed to have 24/7 surveillance of the southwest border. The U.S. has already purchased 10 border drones, which cost $18 million a iece and roughly $3,000 an hour to operate.

Many question whether the current border drones are worth the investment. According to a report from the Customs and Border Protection agency, drones led to 143 arrests and the recovery of 66,000 pounds of drugs in 2012. As news outlet Fronteras calculated, “that’s less than 3 percent of all drugs seized by border agents last year, and less than 0.04 percent of the 365,000 would-be illegal border crossers caught by agents.”

In May 2012, a report by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General found the U.S. didn’t have enough manpower or money to effectively operate the drones they already have. The department overshot its maintenance and operational budget by over $25 million. Drones had only flown for 30 percent of the time they were supposed to be in the air.

More fencing

Another $1.5 billion would be allocated to expand the 651 miles of fencing along the southwest border. “I think what we would do if the bill passes,” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a Senate hearing, “is go back and look at the type of fencing we have and say, ‘Do we want to make it triple what it is or taller?’—or something of that sort.”

More phones and radios

Remote areas along the southwest border can have spotty cell coverage, posing a risk to border guards in an emergency. A two-year grant would provide more funding for satellite phones and radios for border staff to contact 911, local police and federal agencies.

The bill doesn’t say anything about training guards to use the new devices. In November, we reported how DHS had spent $430 million on radios that only one surveyed employee knew how to use.

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  • Lynda Groom

    Into the pockets of those building ladders one foot taller than the fences. Next question please.

  • The most perplexing part of this issue is that most of these expenditures, and the sudden focus on illegal immigration, comes at a time when it is at an all-time low and when many Latinos are heading south as a result of high unemployment. Wouldn’t it be better to focus on reforming our immigration laws to make the need to jump or crawl under our Soviet style walls unnecessary? People enter the USA illegally because our immigration laws favor the entry of foreign professionals from countries like India and Pakistan over
    those who lack the skills needed to fill some of the best vacancies our economy has to offer. However, that does not mean we don’t need semi-skilled or unskilled labor. In fact, we do. The reason for our reticence to change our immigration laws is because the status quo benefit employers in the agricultural, hospitality, garment, and construction sectors who benefit from cheap labor. To a lesser extent, the American public has been less than enthusiastic to support changes that we know will lead to higher costs and inflation. Opposition to immigration law reform is based on cultural bias and economic considerations rather than moral imperatives.

    • Though I agree with most of your post, I do have problems with the overall meaning of your post. I am for legal immigration reform. But, having grown up in San Diego, CA — I have seen the massive fiscal impacts that illegal immigration brought to sunny California. Californians were expected to eat the costs of illegal immigration (i.e. education, housing, medical care, law enforcement, etc.).

      The issue of immigration favoritism for foreign professionals also sticks in my craw. I live in WV and can tell you that we have more than our fair share of Indian doctors working in our local hospital. Our current immigration policy now only allows them in here, but pays for their education, as long as they agree to practice here for a set period of time. When asked why they do this, we are told that it allows these foreign countries to increase the number of doctors needed for their home countries. What about the needs of our own students here in America? We don’t get those opportunities.

      We were told in 1986 (the last time we reformed immigration) that “that” immigration reform package would solve all our immigration problems. Millions of illegals were given blanket amnesty back then. And look at where we are now. We will be effectively giving amnesty to another 11 million.

      At the present time we not only need to control immigration, we need to drastically reduce present and future immigration numbers. We cannot afford to continue bringing in immigrants, of any nationality, until we have taken care of our own house, via infrastructure repairs and/or improvements. Until we can reduce the rates of poverty and hunger and homelessness in our own country. Until we can eliminate the approximate 50,000 American citizens who die each year through not having any medical insurance.

      Call me cynical. Our present political system is currently so corrupt that no matter what we attempt to do to resolve these issues, our efforts result in nothing being achieved.

      I am no conservative. I am a liberal leaning Independent, who grew up strongly believing in the Democratic party. No more. The corruption, the lies, and everything else in the the Democratic and Republican party, sickened me and drove me into the arms of Independent movements.

    • CPAinNewYork

      We do not need unskilled labor, because unskilled labor is the hardest hit by the recession. We need to exclude unskilled foreigners from entering our country illegally and taking jobs away from Americans.

      We need to prosecute the employers who are taking advantage of the huge supply of illegal aliens.

      Finally, if we achieve the foregoing two objectives, we need to ensure that the unskilled American employees receive a fair wage and benefits. Objective two may accomplish that. A few well publicized jail sentences would provide a great incentive for employers to obey the law.

      Oh, one final point: remove the requirement of full time employment for health benefits. That means that every employee receives health benefits, regardless of the number of hours worked. Are you listening, “Papa John” Schnatter?

  • Eleanore Whitaker

    To the porker states who rely all too heavily on federal tax dollars to keep their economies stable. Sorry…but when Big Rich Texas, That Whole Other Country can go around telling other Americans “Don’t Mess With Texas” in one breath and then drives a 73 ft long semi into the federal treasury to splurge on their state, it’s time to level the playing field for the remaining states.

    Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and California have the highest number of billionaires in these states than other states. They make their money from hiring illegals. Texas Dept. of Labor chief stated that TX economy would sink without illegal laborers. This is also true for other red states like OK, KS and AL. In other words, these states keep their state taxes low by not having to pay living wages. All anyone has to do to prove this is to check the US DOL statistics on the wages in these states compared to other states.

    • CPAinNewYork

      Their economies wouldn’t crater, but their business people would have to pay proper wages and charge proper prices.

      I don’t know what “Don’t mess with Texas” means and don’t care. It sounds like a lot of bullshit to me. The most prominent Texans in my lifetime were Lyndon Johnson, George W. Bush and Mark Perry. Neither is anyone I’d want associated with my state. All three were or are losers.

  • docb

    You are kidding right? Look to the Senators pushing this delayed citizenship piece of political claptrap..It will go to the republican business and contractors that donate to them…..Another unnecessary scam of fiscal irresponsibility perpetrated on the Nations tax payer by republican spending machines! Rubbish for the trash heap for these repubs and the schumer guy playing footsie with them!

  • charleo1

    Immigration reform, like financial reform, or healthcare reform. or changing
    gun law, to make it harder for a person with a violent criminal record, to obtain
    a weapon, is very obviously beyond our capability at this time. Why? Because,
    in all of these areas, there are people that worked very hard to fix the system
    so they can make big fat profits. And even if those profits are made at everybody
    else’s expense, the profits belong to them, and protecting them is just a part of
    the job, successful companies learn to do very well. It’s good old American,
    ingenuity, geared to the realities of doing business, in the early part of the 21st
    century, U.S.A. So, if the rest of us feel we are being taken for a ride. That the
    Country is headed in the wrong direction, and we have lost the ability to influence
    the most important matters affecting our lives, or our children’s future. Just
    hang on. Because they have an, “expert,” they want you to hear. He might have
    written a book just for the occasion. Or, he might be a news reporter that goes
    out to the Mexican border, in West Texas, or Southern Arizona, and shows a
    spindly little barbed wire fence, in the middle of nowhere, and says, “Over there is Mexico!” We must secure the Country first, before any legislation granting amnesty
    is considered! And the people who have worked very hard to create the mess
    they are profiting from, at everyone else’s expense, has another year, or two
    years. Maybe the public will be distracted, and they’ll have another 10 years.
    It’s just the way business is conducted in this Country today.

    • Interestingly, no fences are being built along our Northern border, which is used routinely by European and Asian immigrants to enter the USA illegally.

      • CPAinNewYork

        Interesting. Do you have any facts to support your statement, e.g. the number of these illegal aliens crossing the border and the number that have taken up permanent residence?

        • luftty

          Maybe he doesn’t have the numbers, but 6 of them became prominent on 9/11, yet all of the anti – immigrants thought was to seal the border at the south end to stop the terrorists that came from the north.

      • charleo1

        It is without logic. Yet, people coming from Mexico, and parts
        South, have often been demonized as criminals, and undesirables.
        And those crossing illegally from Canada, haven’t had the bad
        press, if you will, and are automatically, assumed to be benign.