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/

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.

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  1. This bill is a fucking monster. The police state Republicans and the crony capitalist Dems got together and made a deal. A police state in return for amnesty of a few million future Dem voters who work for politically connected businesses.

    1. What is especially infuriating to me is that in conversations with family and friends not one is upset at the idea of having to use E-Verify.

      Not one.

      They have no philosophical problem with having to check with the government before giving someone a job.

      They don’t think the 1% false no-hire rate is a problem (that translates to 3 million americans who can’t get a job and have no idea why).

      They…. just… don’t… fucking… get… it!

      All they see is a secure border keeping out terrorists. Let me tell you about secure borders; the most secure border was that between the Soviet Union and Western Europe. People still got through the fucking thing. Hell, a German teenager managed to rent a plane and land in Red Square!

      What makes it especially galling is that my father had horrible problems that took the intercession of Ted Kennedy to resolve so that he could join his American wife, I have problems with the SS administration (apparently my database entry has some corruption of some kind and they want to see my Istanbul Consulate issued birth certificate), and my borther went through hell marrying a Mexican national.

      My family has experienced all this bullshit, yet they have no problem extending the suffering to all corners of the country out of a problem that is fucking negligible in a free society.

      1. My mom couldn’t get her papers till Frank Launterberg interceded. The fact that people have to rely on the goodwill of lawmakers to help them through the process ought to be unconscionable in America.

        1. That’s a feature not a bug.


      2. I’m just curious, how is this e-verify thing different than those “I-9’s” we all fill out when we get a job. Don’t they send those off to be verified somewhere?

        1. Nope.

          The I-9 basically certifies that the HR rep saw your identity papers. You could have a bogus passport, and if it fools the HR rep, you are good. The HR rep makes copies of your passport/papers to have them on file in case of an audit.

          The E-Verify requires HR to check with the government, and if their db is messed up, you are screwed. The I-9 allows them to use their own judgement.

          1. I wonder how this will affect the millions working under the table? I know that’s already illegal, especially as far as tax evasion goes, but does it become even more criminal under this bill? I’m referring to the off-the-books work of U.S. citizens.

          2. Ok, thanks, I wondered how that worked.

        2. Several years ago, our company explained the nature of E-Verify (major corporations were urged to voluntarily use E-Verify before it became mandatory).

          The feds will maintain a DB of names culled form SS lists and IRS tax returns (and how knows what else). The DB will without a doubt include many wildly erroneous entries.

          If your verification fails, the company MUST fire you immediately. No exceptions.

          It becomes the employees responsibility to clear up the problem with the feds (no problems there huh?).

          Once the problem is cleared up, the company is under no obligation to rehire you.

          This will destroy the lives of many, many US citizens.

          1. Sounds like what happens when you’re a victim of identity theft.

            1. I have an irish surname McWhatever. 20 years ago, some nitwit in HR decided that I was Mc Whatever. It was never a problem until about 4 years ago when the feds required names on airline tickets to match exactly the name on the presented ID. So I was forced to have my US Passport changed to Mc Whatever, because company travel is booked by computer using our HR data. So now my passport does not match my driver’s license or my SSN or my 30 years of IRS filings. The good news is that I don’t plan on applying for any new jobs between now and retirement.

              1. This means that I have to present my passport for domestic travel because my tickets don’t match my DL. What fun!

              2. Why didn’t you fix the HR data?

                Because the passport people are far more dangerous than HR.

                1. When the company started the process of E-Verifying all employees, they were allowed to “dry-run” small batches of people through the federal system without risk of having to fire people. They expected a 2% failure rate. The first batch had a 20% failure rates.

                  So HR tried to fix all the failures. My wife (who was also tagged a Mc Whatever) had her credentials fixed in the HR database. It took IT about 4 months to fix all the tools that broke with the change of her name.

                  Last I heard, HR suspended the dry run and only runs new employees through E-Verify. Any mandatory run of all employees will be a true clusterfuck. The good news is that the company can’t fire 20% of the staff and still function. So I am certain there will be waivers issued.

              3. I had a similar problem during my White House fellowship, because I’m a namedropper. You’d think I’d invented the practice to advance communism or something the way they reacted.

      3. After destroying the medical and health care industries, Congress decides to destroy private employers.

        Par for the course.

      4. As long as E-verify is in, I am against this bill.

      5. I have THE WHITEST NAME IN THE WORLD, had ancestors in Plymouth Plantation, etc. I was born in Houston to married parents who were both natural born citizens.
        But because my name is very long – the maximum number of characters they will allow on a passport – government systems can’t all handle it, so they always need extra verification that I exist, as my driver’s license will never have my full name on it.

          1. Too foreign. Van McSmithenbergersteinson

  2. Short answer: yes.

  3. It seems the government employees unions actually are in the right on this amendment to the immigration bill capping what the feds can pay private contractors:

    American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. today praised Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia for successfully attaching an amendment to the Senate immigration reform bill that would limit annual taxpayer subsidies to compensation for border security contractors to no more than the salary of the Vice President.

    The Senate voted 72-26 to add the amendment to the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S 744).

    Read more here:…..rylink=cpy

  4. Jesus, please, no more giant bills that fuck up more than they fix. Please?

    Oh, and “No, fuck you, cut spending.”

  5. The WALLS won’t WORK !!!

    It is too too expense to PROTECT the BORDER from casual people walking across.

    I say, GET RID OF CASH…and no BITCOIN.

    Make every financial transaction online via Bio-metric.
    This way, people that came into the US without permission can’t purchase anything. They can’t pay rent. They can’t buy gas.
    This would eliminate tax evasion.

    By doing so, we would be forced to import the labor workers LEGALLY than what we do today.

    I saw the same thing work with SPEEDing Cameras in my town. Once the police, the police officer’s mother, the local judge, and all of the other cronies started getting tickets…the SPEED LIMIT went UP to a reasonable speed and the FUND-RAISING ended.

    1. Make every financial transaction online via Bio-metric.

      Wow! I was just wondering if someone could come up with a more retarded way to solve the non-problem, and right on cue we have Alice demonstrating his/her usual idiocy.

      I guess people living in rural areas should get fucked, huh Alice? AS should people fleeing relationships with abusers who have relatives in government.

      God you’re a tool! Stupid, yet energetic.

      1. “Stupid, yet energetic.”

        The CAPS give THAT away, RIGHT?

  6. We don’t have a sane immigration system because Republicans want cheap labor but they don’t want those workers to be able to vote. The end.

    1. So, Tony, what is you view of a sane immigration system?

      1. People who have been living here for years and profiting American companies by supplying cheap labor deserve the right to be citizens. If you don’t like that, we can also slap their employers with heavy penalties for exploiting illegal labor.

        I’m for a liberal citizenship application process (meaning fairly easy and lax), since America has never been harmed by immigration that I know of, but only benefited.

        1. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what alcoholics refer to as “a moment of clarity.”

        2. If your “fairly easy and lax” immigration and naturalization rules applied equally to, say, a German mechanical engineer and a Mexican migrant worker and if said engineer could enter the country illegally and get work and eventual amnesty as easily as the migrant worker, I would agree with you.

          But I don’t see a remote chance of this happening.

        3. “If you don’t like that, we can also slap their employers with heavy penalties for exploiting illegal labor.”

          Tony wants to Mexicans poor and in Mexico because he cares about them so much.

    2. Once again Tony, you demonstrate your utter ignorance!\

      If Republicans wanted cheap labor, they’d make getting a workers visa easy, and make getting citizenship hard.

      They are making both hard, which means they don’t want cheap labor.

      Thanks for playing, though.

      1. Well, if you wanted an immigration system that didn’t allow much increase in citizenship but allowed lots of cheap easily exploited labor (because they would be illegal and couldn’t complain about anything) you’d deny both as long as you knew people were going to get over the border whatever song and dance DHS did regarding fences and such.

      2. You don’t get quite the same amount of exploitation if you have to legitimize your migrant workers.

        1. But you get a larger pool to hire from, and they go back home when you don’t want to pay them anymore.

          Again, thanks for playing.

          1. You’re the one who’s playing, I’m describing reality.

            1. No Tony, you are not. In your charming ignorance, you have neglected to realize that most republican politicians have no interest in cheap migrant labor, most republican voters see them as an affront to law and order or as wage lowering competitors.

              Sure, there may be a bunch of farmers who think like you, but they are all Republicans as surely as KKK members are all Democrats.

              If the centroid of Republicans wanted cheap migrant labor, they would be placating the law and order crowd by legalizing it.

              They aren’t seeking to legalize it because they don’t want it.

              1. They wouldn’t be cheap and exploitable if you legalized them! Why don’t you get this?

                Republicans are being torn in opposite directions on this issue and have been for a long time. Their backers in the business community want cheap exploitable labor. Their nativist voter base want to export all the Mexicans. They must give lip service to the latter while appeasing the former.

                1. Their backers in the business community want cheap exploitable labor


                  You mean General Dynamics wants cheap exploitable labor? General Electric? Metlife? IBM? Surely southwest airlines would love to hire Mexicans at $3.00 per hour to maintain its aircraft.

                  The people who benefit from migrant labor are a small fraction of the business community. It’s amazing that your stereotypes blind you to the obviousness of that fact.

                  Your ignorance is so pervasive that I have to ask where the hell you were educated?

                  I hope your parents didn’t spend too much on it, because if they did, they were clearly got ripped off… badly.

                2. “They wouldn’t be cheap and exploitable if you legalized them! Why don’t you get this?”

                  That is just wrong, and the idea of cheap labor is a myth. Illegals make less money because they don’t speak the language, meaning they can’t perform as many tasks, not because they’re illegal. Employers don’t care whether you’re legal or not. A fluent english-speaking hispanic immigrant will make more than their American counterpart, (since they’re bilingual). I know this because I hire them. Their salary demands are the same.

                  1. Are you implying that you hire illegals?

          2. It all comes down to what you’d rather have: a larger pool or a workforce that can’t invoke any worker protections.

            1. The people that hire illegals aren’t thinking about either. Christ, man, illegals don’t work for big corporations with human resources depts.

    3. Is that all?

      Then the deal is easy: Republicans will ease off the demands for greater security and E-Verify if Democrats will relent on a path to citizenship rather than plain legality.

      Done and done.

    4. We don’t have a sane immigration system because Republicans want cheap labor but they don’t want those workers to be able to vote. The end.

      Yep, a sane immigration system eliminates the exploitation and moves people directly to welfare.

    5. I noticed you did not comment on the previous article shithead.

      Fuck you.

      1. I notice you didn’t have scones for breakfast. Fuck you!

      2. He was there, just logged in under a different name.

    6. It’s apparent there’s some long running bad blood between Tony and many here, but I’m not sure whey this comment would raise such much anger. On some things libertarians care about the Democrats are terrible, and they should be called on it. In fact, I’d say currently they are worse on more things. But that doesn’t change the fact that on some things the Republicans are terrible and worse. Immigration is one of them.

      1. I can often get this place worked up into a orgy of GOP defending and excuse-making and nobody seems to notice it’s even going on.

        Something about how even though Republicans start phony wars, exploit immigrant labor, torture people, spend more money, and favor a police state, at least they don’t want to raise taxes on billionaires by 2%!

      2. It’s apparent there’s some long running bad blood between Tony and many here

        Only because Tony is a disingenuous piece of shit who lies, is incapable of learning, impervious to logic, and argues in bad faith. Other than that he’s a swell guy.

        1. ^^ this ^^

          and he’s pretty much a little tin-hat fascist.

          1. Come on guys, he’s not worth hating!

            He’s actually comical, like a fool that the king keeps around.

            Sure, it’s easy to get mad at his tone, his pretense of superiority while getting history, facts, science and economics wrong in an almost Galbraithian way, but once you get over your anger, if you reread his posts, you will see that they are unintentionally hi-larious.

            1. How can one allow oneself to get upset with Tony on a day when we should:

              ALL HAIL KING JAMES!

            2. It’s not his fault that his mother drank a couple pints of vodka every night while pregnant with him. I can’t fairly hate him for that.

            3. his pretense of superiority while getting history, facts, science and economics wrong in an almost Galbraithian way

              That’s probably the overriding factor. Not only is he wrong, he’s so haughty about it. The manner in which he asserts his falsehoods reminds me of Hitchens’ account of Hugo Chavez speaking about the moon landings.

              Economics is always the best. The kid has clearly never gotten through Macro 101 but goes on to lecture others that they should read a book or that their theories aren’t based in math. All this because he’s regurgitating whatever drivel a once-great economist that hasn’t practiced academic economics in 15 years or an “economics correspondent” for an online magazine put in their latest columns. It can be awfully frustrating for the educated yet uninitiated.

              1. Not only is he wrong, he’s so haughty about it.


      3. Tony is a fascist/team blue shill that incessantly lies and twists logic to push that agenda. Anytime he gets caught in a lie or evidence of his mendacity comes up he simply refuses to respond to it. A more mendacious piece of shit was never born.

        Make no mistake, if and when the socialist/fascist utopia comes, Tony will be very happy to see us all lined up and shot. I doubt he has the balls to pull the trigger himself though.

    7. Yeah, Tony, and the desire of Democrats to keep cheap labor out of the country has absolutely nothing to do with it, right?

      You realize that the entire labor certification process is the invention of Big Labor, right? Who do you tihnk came up with the idea that immigrants would have to proove that no American could do the job before they could get an offer?

  7. This massive bill is going to fix just as much as the 1986 bill. Why would worker and employer want to volunteer to pay taxes if they “come out of the shadows”? And if they do, why would they continue to work a minimum wage job if you can just piggy back on the massive welfare state and continue to work off the books? They can also just not work at all.

    After Reagan signed the 1986 bill it did not help Rep. They even got less votes in 1988.

    1. Whether Republicans get voters shouldn’t really be the issue, should it? You’re right though, even if they are pulled kicking and screaming into a change in the status quo (which they prefer, mind you), they’re not going to get any more votes.

      1. It is an issue. Divided government is optimal.

        1. People having a say in their own government is optimal. Divided government is what we have now, and optimal is not the first adjective I’d use for it.

          1. Mob rule! Yay!

          2. Not divided enough, but preferable to, say, ’08-’10, when we threw away $800 billion on a stimulus that made the economy worse.

          3. Time for our version of the Erm?chtigungsgesetz to get rid of the divisiveness that delays us on our way to a progressive future

  8. We should get the Chinese to build it. They’re good at that sort of thing.

    1. It’s also worth noting that the Great Wall was ineffective due to the generals always opening the gates for the invaders after a hefty enough bribe.

    2. Or the Germans. I hear they used to have this really nice wall, almost no one got across it. We could use one of those.

  9. This comment is in the noise wrt this monstrosity, but:
    Is it really necessary to publish *800+ pages of lined-out text*?

    Also, who *needs* a 1075-page bill? 8-(

  10. The fact that it is a bill being seriously considered by Congress means “immigration reform” is bullshit.


    Michael Jordan must be so happy for Lebron!

  12. No.

    What makes it bullshit is the fact that it does nothing to create a viable legal path for low-skilled immigrants.

    All it does is legalize people already here and create more enforcement. It does nothing to actually REFORM the actual LAWS. What is whta, you know “immigratoin REFORM” is supposed to be about.

    1. well put

    2. Exactly.

      The bill started from the wrong problem — there are 12 million illegal immigrants in the US — rather than the right problem — people are illegally immigrating to the US.

      The answer to the question “What do you do with the 12 million in the US when the bill is passed?” should be, quite obviously, “Whatever you do with the first one who shows up after the bill is passed.”

  13. Don’t worry, there won’t be any actual border security bought with the money. Your lawns will still be mown for a shiny penny a day.

    1. Is that a bad thing? (Oddly enough, I looked out the window yesterday when all of the gas engines were going at once and discovered my landlord actually has four white guys handling his lawn and grounds maintenance.)

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