Border "Surge" Amendment To Immigration Bill Has Liberal Groups on the Fence


Credit: Phillip Capper/wikimedia

Some liberal groups have not responded in favor to the Senate's approval of the Corker-Hoeven amendment to the immigration reform bill, which advocate Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) promised would leave the U.S. with the "most militarized border since the fall of the Berlin Wall." One pro-immigration group has withdrawn their support from the Gang of Eight reform plan and others are considering similar action as a result of the amendment.

From USA Today:

Presente.org of Berkeley, Calif., has supported the Senate bill that allows the nation's 11 million unauthorized immigrants to get U.S. citizenship. But it says the bill has been tainted by the proposed flood of Border Patrol agents to secure the southwest border.

The group said the added presence of thousands more Border Patrol agents, fencing and surveillance technology will militarize border communities and make the legal, cross-border traffic even harder to maintain.

"As advocates for real immigration reform, we cannot, in good conscience, support a bill that's guaranteed to deepen the crisis for citizens and non-citizens living in border communities," said Arturo Carmona, executive director of Presente.org. "As the legislation moves to the House, we are drawing a line that we cannot and will not accept more extreme measures disguised as 'bi-partisan immigration reform.'"

The Corker-Hoeven amendment, which if implemented is estimated to cost at least $30 billion, would add 20,000 new border agents, several hundred miles of fencing, drones, Blackhawk helicopters, and a Call of Duty gamer's fantasy ensemble of surveillance technology to several "strategic" locations along the U.S.-Mexico border, a "breathtaking show of force," according to Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). 

Here's what Corker-Hoeven would install in Del Rio, Texas:

(I) 3 integrated fixed towers. (II) 74 fixed camera systems (with relocation capability), which include remote video surveillance systems. (III) 47 mobile surveillance systems, which include mobile video surveillance systems, agent-portable surveillance systems, and mobile surveillance capability systems. (IV) 868 unattended ground sensors, including seismic, imaging, and infrared. (V) 174 handheld equipment devices, including handheld thermal imaging systems and night vision goggles. (VI) 26 mobile/handheld inspection scopes and sensors for check points…

The Del Rio entrenchment would be replicated by several others in designated sectors along the border, according to the amendment. It doesn't exactly read as a "border security" amendment to an immigration reform plan, as David Bier of the Competitive Enterprise Institute points out:

This is not simple "border security"—personnel-wise, it's a mobilization proportional to the one in Afghanistan (it's already being called "the surge"). But unlike that adventure, it was not provoked by any foreign aggression. Instead, this offensive is a response to hundreds of thousands of peaceful people moving to the United States to work — such a reaction is without even the slightest rationale.

Not to be misunderstood, border "security" is a legitimate and necessary function of government—border "invasions" are not. Border security would require immigrants and travelers to enter within legal avenues through which they could be processed and checked. Security's role is to protect and aid movement between countries, which allows free markets to extend beyond legal jurisdictions.

You can read the 1,200-page bill here, Ed Krayewski's case for amnesty here, and Shikha Dalmia's argument for open immigration here.