Just a quick post before I head to San Francisco for the annual American Immigration Lawyers Association conference. S. 744 is on the way to a vote within the next few days, only now with a GOP peacemaking feature to keep the bill moving. It now contains provisions for 40,000 Border Patrol boots on the ground (anyone need a job?) and more fencing (700 miles) to the tune of $46 billion dollars (i.e., the full employment bill for government contractors providing border enforcement technology and services). The National Immigration Forum has a good summary of where things are at. Yesterday’s Corker-Hoeven amendment substitutes the entire bill with much tougher enforcement provisions as a trade off to keep the bill moving with the path to legal status provisions (“RPI”), amendments to the legal immigration system, and E-Verify and employer sanctions. The enforcement provisions would be paid by taxpayers and fees paid by immigrants using the legal immigration system. All of this would occur, of course, while illegal immigration is at the lowest in 40 years.
Many people question whether so many border agents (potentially standing 250-1000 feet apart) and so much fencing are worth the price. Ironically, the ACLU and the Border Patrol have reached a tentative deal in a northern border case involving racial profiling. While this case, brought by three US citizen plaintiffs, was pending, there were rumblings by northern Border Patrol agents about being bored stiff when the new Port Angeles, Washington station opened up and hiring tripled in the area. Indeed, some officers worked with local law enforcement agencies as back up in smaller northern border towns, and they also provided interpretation services. This was stopped by DHS directive in December 2012. The bottom line: Do we need this amount of resources thrown at the border? What will it accomplish and can we afford it? Who really pays for it and who really gains from it?