As the Senate immigration bill enters its second week of floor negotiations and the House begins marking up its bill, much of the debate will center on how border security can be further expanded and better enforced. That means more deal-making. It also means a lot of money—the current bill already calls for $4.5 billion in additional border security, with few specifics on how, exactly, it will be managed. That's consistent with the billions of dollars in federal money that states have already spent since 2003, when the Department of Homeland Security began doling out grants for border security efforts. The money's also been spent in a variety of other ways, largely due to scant oversight.
In a 2010 report in the Boston Review, journalist Tom Barry revealed how Texas Gov. Rick Perry has supplemented DHS funds with millions more from the state Legislature and from the Justice Department, which provided aid for law enforcement agencies through President Obama's stimulus package. As a result, border counties, many of them sparsely populated and otherwise struggling economically, have received millions of dollars to amp up security with federal funds. But local law enforcement officials have had other ideas for the money, too, likepadding their wallets with overtime cash, doing deals with drug traffickers, and raising irrational fears about Al Qaeda and even Chinese soldiers south of the border.