Does Massive New Spending on Border Security Mean "Immigration Reform" is Bullshit?

Real immigration reform would stem the flow of illegal migration across the border, allowing the Border Patrol to focus on other issues


border surge em!
Paul Garland/Foter.com

Republican lawmakers who understand the demographic challenges facing the party in the future know it's time to get on board with immigration reform, and many have. A deal on a border security amendment may secure more Republican support. Chuck Schumer and John McCain are aiming for 70 votes in the Senate to get the kind of momentum they feel is needed to get the bill passed into law.

But what does the new spending on border security mean? If the Border Patrol is underfunded (big if), it's because they have to pursue drug cartels and human traffickers operating along the border. Real immigration reform would mean liberalizing immigration laws to make it easier to enter the United States legally. Appropriately implemented, immigration reform should cut down significantly on human trafficking at the border. Once it is easier to go the legal route than to hire a coyote, the human trafficking problem should largely take care of itself. Regular readers of Reason know ending the war on drugs would go a long way to stripping drug cartels of their power. Who wants to deal with the Zetas if you can import your drugs from Legal Weed Inc.? But regular readers of Reason also know that's not happening any time too soon. Fine. Yet even if the Border Patrol is mandated to pursue narcotraffickers and terrorists along the border, easing the demand for illegal entry (by lowering the cost of legal entry) ought to allow the Border Patrol to focus on those narrower problems.

The demand for massive new border security spending, then, suggests two things: that no one in Washington actually expects "immigration reform" to make it easier to cross the US-Mexican border legally, and that many Republicans are still enamored by big government when the money is thrown down their hole of choice. Lindsey Graham admitted as much when he said special interests "coming back for more" goodies in the immigration reform bill was a good thing.

A final version of the immigration reform bill is still not yet here, but you can read the current Senate version of the bill here (pdf). The Senate is expected to vote on the border security amendments and the full bill by the end of next week, but the House version isn't likely to get voted on till September (DC loves its long summer vacations)

You can read my case for amnesty, which wouldn't require a 1075-page bill, here, and Shikha Dalmia's argument for liberalizing immigration laws, which also wouldn't require a 1075-page bill, here.

And check out Reason's latest ebook, Humane and Pro-Growth: A Reason Guide to Immigration Reform here.