Immigration

The Coming House Vote on Building a Berlin Wall on the Rio Grande

This week will test if Rep. McCaul's strategy of restrictionist appeasement and border security first is politically viable

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How do you deal with people who won't take "yes" for an answer? That's the question that the Republican House leadership is going to confront this week.

For a decade now Republican restrictionists — egged on by radio talk show and other media hysterics — have stubbornly refused to go along with comprehensive immigration reform on the pretext that they will make no deal involving "amnesty" — or fixing any other aspects of America's broken, bureaucratic and brutal immigration system, for that matter — until and unless America's border is first fully secured. This demand is tantamount to putting the cart before the horse given that the only fool proof way of controlling illegal crossings is by creating a usable guest worker program for low-skilled workers. But they are pressing it despite the fact that unauthorized border crossings are already at their lowest level in 40 years.

Since trying to knock some sense in their heads is futile, some Republicans on the Hill have decided to go along with their irrational demands. Hence Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) jettisoned his awful stand-alone border security bill that passed his committee with unanimous bipartisan support in December and has pushed in record time an even more awful version on a strictly party line vote last week. In less than seven days, he wrote, marked and voted out of the

Berlin Wall
GothPhil / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Committee of Homeland Security, which he chairs, the Secure Our Borders First Act that will be up for a vote in the full House tomorrow or day after. The bill will mandate the Department of Homeland Security, among other things, to:

  • Implement a biometric exit system at the 15 busiest air, land and sea ports within two years and all ports within five years for all Americans — not just foreigners — who step across the border. American taxpayers will have to pony up upwards of $7 billion in down payment for the privilege of having the government track their cross-border movements. 

The Chamber of Commerce has written a scathing letter panning this requirement because the infrastructure to meet its deadline is not in place, which means huge bottlenecks for border commercial traffic and travel. The potential losses would be in the billions, it notes, given that average economic output lost per minute of border delays is around $116 million.

  • Segment the Northern and Southern border into various sectors. And it stipulates 19 different types of "technological deployments" – ground sensors, tower-based surveillance and radars – for each sector. In fact, 30 of the bill's 80-odd pages are devoted to stating the precise deployments sector-by-sector, an exercise in micro-management that is intended to squeeze out any wiggle room for the DHS to defy the bill's stipulations.
  • Within 18 months: double the areas with a double fence; build 27 miles of new fence; replace 64 miles of old fence; and construct 415 miles of access roads/gates and boat ramps to patrol the border.

So in addition to all the surveillance and sensors on the entire border as part of the "technological deployment," the bill will also put in place an actual, physical wall on a huge new portion of the border.

  • Require its Customs and Border Patrol division to implement the Consequence Delivery System — a euphemism that masks the inhumanity of a program which would impose stepped up criminal penalties for people caught illegally crossing the border. It would also potentially separate immigrant families and dump them in far-away border cities to return home so that they can't cross back again.

In order to ensure that the DHS does all of the above, the bill will throw upwards of $10 billion and create a whole new layer of bureaucratic oversight in the form of the Border Security Verification Commission. The commission's job will be to ensure that the DHS is maintaining "situational awareness" – meaning keeping track of all cross-border activity — and "operational control" — defined as stopping all unlawful entries into the United States, a virtually impossible goal in the absence of a guest worker program.  If the commission determines that the DHS hasn't delivered, then no political appointee — including presumably the secretary — will be able to receive a salary increase or bonus pay (OK — this is the good part!), or use government aircraft to attend essential trainings or conferences.

In short, the penalty for not doing an impossible task are even more penalties that will make it even more difficult to do the impossible task!

So what is the restrictionist response to this giant leap forward in creating Fortress America?

Rage!

House immigration reform arsonists such as Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va) are accusing the McCaul bill of being a "Trojan Horse" for amnesty. "If you pass a bill called 'border security,' then the other side is going to say, 'Hey, look, we already did it, we passed border security, so now it's time for step two, which is amnesty– let everyone in, legalize them, because we now have a secure border."

Of course if immigration reformers don't pass a border security bill then folks like Brat will claim that "they haven't secured the border so we can't go along with any reforms." In others words, in Brat's game, its "heads I win and tails you lose."

But if Brat is busy rigging the game, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who recently issued a restrictionist manifesto declaring war on all immigrants on all fronts, is busy shifting the goal posts. He has issued a scathing statement against the McCaul bill for its failure to implement "mandatory E-Verify," "workplace enforcement,' "mandatory detention and repatriation for illegal entrants," "expedited deportation for border-crossers," "barring access for welfare," and "penalties for the Administration's continued failure to build 700 miles of double-layer border fence." Much of this is a lie and, and as McCaul has noted, also beyond the scope of his committee whose purview is only the border, not interior enforcement.

But Sessions other big criticism is that the bill does nothing to close an "asylum loophole" that, for example, has allowed unaccompanied minors fleeing drug war-related violence in South American countries to seek refuge in the United States. In other words, Sessions and his fellow restrictionists have expanded their list of conditions for coming to the table on immigration reform from not just controlling unauthorized entries — but also perfectly legal, authorized ones. They want all their demands met even before they'll negotiate which, of course, defeats the purpose of negotiations.

But restrictionists are not the only ones upset with the bill.

Most Democrats are unlikely to go along with it. But even the 26 or so moderate Republicans in the House such as Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Penn.) are afraid of voting for such a harsh stand alone bill until the House leadership firmly commits to advancing positive immigration reforms — which it hasn't done. They are afraid – completely reasonably — that they'll be stuck with a draconian bill without getting anything in return, all of which exposes the weakness of a piecemeal strategy (that I actually encouraged in my Reason piece here.)

It's an open question, notes Joshua Breisblatt of the National Immigration Forum, whether the bill will be able to draw the 218 votes necessary to pass.

If this piece of trash dies, it'll be no tragedy. But given that comprehensive immigration reform is already dead, if it doesn't pass then it is hard to see if there is any way forward on this issue till Republicans receive another big shellacking from Hispanic and minority voters.

If this bill is worth watching, it's only as a test of the House GOP leadership's ability to move the needle at all on this issue.

Update: Some readers are noting that the Berlin Wall analogy is misplaced because that wall was meant to keep people in not prevent outsiders from entering. Actually it did both. More to the point, the McCaul bill wants to create a biometric exit system to track Americans who travel outside the country.

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  1. Let’s see how many “small government” types support this pile of shit.

    1. With no government there would be up to 7 billion borders. It takes a lot of government to reduce that too 200 or so. To get to a no borders world it takes a world government.

      1. You’re still equating borders and private property?

        1. Sure.

          Dosn’t your property have borders?

          If government went away then you would be the soverign owner of that property as defined by its borders.

          Government borders are the consolidation of private borders which is done by stripping private property rights. But just because government borders might be illegitmate does not mean that private borders are.

          1. And? Nothing you said contradicts open borders.

            1. Which open borders, government or private?

              In the case of private a person would have to be a fool to give away unlimited rights of others to travel on his property because if you don’t control a property you soon will not own it.

              As to government borders the people advocating open borders are taking advantage of the governments use of force against private property owners to make them allow travel on what is or would be their property.

              Going from Chicago to Mexico city would involved getting permission to use hundreds or thousands pieces of property in each case the property owner setting various restrictions on its use. Its only with massive government force that such open borders world be created

              1. Going from Chicago to Mexico city would involved getting permission to use hundreds or thousands pieces of property in each case the property owner setting various restrictions on its use. Its only with massive government force that such open borders world be created

                Why aren’t you advocating restricting travel from Texas to Chicago then?

                1. I do advocate it if that is what the property owners want.

                  First I am trying to convince those who support private property that borders are not evil or wrong. Second to point out that ‘Open Borders’ is a government project created by force by stripping property owners of their right to enforced borders.

                  1. Second to point out that ‘Open Borders’ is a government project created by force by stripping property owners of their right to enforced borders.

                    Talk about Orwellian. People have a right to forcibly prevent me from admitting people to my property? Freedom is slavery, comrade.

                    1. Your neighbors have the right to stop people using their property so they can get to your property and there is a lot of neighbors between Chicago and Mexico City.

                      As to conrade, its the international communists who want a no border world.

                    2. Your neighbors have the right to stop people using their property so they can get to your property and there is a lot of neighbors between Chicago and Mexico City.

                      You didn’t address what I said. You don’t have the right to block access to my property.

                    3. You don’t have the right to use my property to get to your property.

                      You can sit on your property and I can sit on my property. If you can’t offer me something that I want to allow you to travel on my property then that is your problem.

                    4. Let’s just ignore hundreds of years of commonsense Common Law precedents regarding easements for the sake of theoretical purity, while we’re at it.

                  2. And since you clearly believe that public property is equivalent to private property, and that 50.1% of voters constitute the “owners” of said property, it would be perfectly moral for them to ban guns on their “property”, would it not?

                    1. No.

                      I am saying that even without any government at all there would not be an open border world. So many here claim that only governments create borders when in fact borders are the natural state of things when people owne property.

                      So I refuse to believe that if you can’t have open borders in a government free world then somehow you have a right to it with limited government.

                      Borders are not anti-market or anti-freedom, they are the part of property ownership which is a bases of the market and freedom. Its government which consolidatesm, waters down and limits borders not the market.

                    2. Open borders != no private property. You’re being intentionally dishonest at this point.

                    3. Without borders to define private property how do you have private property? If someone can use my property to travel from Chicago to Mexico City without my permission then my property rights have been violated.

                    4. Just stop. Point to one libertarian advocate of open borders who believes that the borders between countries are equivalent to private property borders. Everybody but you understands what the open borders position is.

                    5. Yes it magic.

                      Somehow you get rid of government borders and get to travel wherever you want even though there are up to 7 billion property owners who might object.

                      The open borders type want just enough goverment to force real property owners to allow use of their property so that you can travel whevever you want. Sorry it does not work that way, get rid of govenment and you have not gotten rid of borders but have reinstated 7 billion borders

                    6. The open borders type want just enough goverment to force real property owners to allow use of their property so that you can travel whevever you want.

                      Prove it. Produce quotes from libertarian open borders advocates.

                      get rid of govenment and you have not gotten rid of borders but have reinstated 7 billion borders

                      I’m going to say this slowly so I don’t have to repeat myself another 56 times:

                      Open.
                      Borders.
                      Advocates.
                      Are.
                      Fine.
                      With.
                      That.

                    7. ITT, nativist morons who don’t understand what a border is.

      2. “Without government to force us to get along, we’d have to contend with the horrors of individual sovereignty.”

  2. I’ll premept the soon to come…

    “The Berlin Wall was meant to keep people IN!!!!!”

    1. + La Raza

    2. this wall is also meant to keep people in… MEXICO.

  3. What’s the 16th busiest port?

    1. Portlandia?

    2. Los Angeles: http://www.businessinsider.com…..ld-2013-11

  4. “”””have stubbornly refused to go along with comprehensive immigration reform on the pretext that they will make no deal involving “amnesty””””‘

    I thought they did go along with comprehensive immigration reform under Reagan and got lied to about enforcement provisions. How many times do they need to play Charlie Brown to the governments Lucy and get the football pulled at the last minute?

    1. They’re supposed to do it everytime. Duh Otherwise racism, isolationism, protectionism.

      1. xenophobia.

  5. Building a wall to keep people out is not the same as building one to keep your own people in. Americans have a right to leave this country and go to any country that will have them. Americans do not have a right to go to any country that won’t have them. Mexicans have no right to come here anymore than Americans have a right to go there.

    And unless they plan to start shooting people trying to cross, even if it were the same, it still wouldn’t be a Berlin Wall.

    1. So if I had shown up at the wall and tried to climb over it into East Berlin, they would have thrown down a rope ladder so I could get in easier?

      1. Pretty much. Compare people crossing to get from North Korea into South Korea today.

  6. So, will the signs be in German then? What sense does THAT make?

    /unclear on the concept

  7. They want perfect ‘border security’,that’s now possible.I think people in this country are less secure with the huge numbers of border control Officers hired en mass and the expanded powers they have form congress and the courts.May have helped the cartels though,with so many hires it’s easier to find or put in place people willing to help their business.

    1. Most of the “Border Security” types are many miles from the border using their new numbers and powers to bully citizens. Pretty revealing of their bosses’ true intentions.

      1. Hey,they need to protect their phony boloney jibs!

        1. jobs crap

  8. The immigration system we have now seems designed to filter out people who obey rules and cannot cross a fairly easy obstacle course. If we really wanted to keep people out, border agents and military patrols would be on the border turning people back and putting persistent ones through some unpleasant dungeon time in the process.

    What we are looking at here is adding some degree of difficulty to the obstacle course. I’m not sure it’s cost-efficient.

    1. Well it could be used as a recruiting mechanism for the U.S. Gymnastics team, probably be a better use than its intended purpose.

  9. Is the fence cheaper than paying for all these extra Border Patrolmen, internal checkpoints and immigration enforcement? If a fence ultimately means fewer armed government employees I might be persuaded to support one.

    1. It doesn’t, it just means less liberty and more bills.

    2. Sniper Teams. Maybe a dozen of them. Cost? Maybe a couple million a year. Just shoot the invaders.

  10. Honestly, even to the extent I agree with Dalmia on this one, it really doesn’t seem she’s arguing in good faith. The distinction between border security measures to prevent unauthorized entry and measures intended to imprison your population is hardly a trivial one. Moreover, the demand for enhanced border security is being driven by the fact that, the last time there was a deal for immediate amnesty with deferred enhancement of border security, the promised enhancements were never forthcoming. In addition, the major reason unauthorized border crossings are low levels is almost certainly the recession and diminished earnings differentials with our southern neighbors.

    The case for immigration reform is a fairly strong one. This sort of disingenuousness only undermines it.

    1. it really doesn’t seem she’s arguing in good faith

      You don’t say!

      1. Shocking, I know.

  11. “barring access for welfare,”

    Prioritizing immigration by merit and demand is what really gores Shikha’s ox. She favors moving infirm and deadbeat relatives to the front of the line and opposes any restrictions on their “welfare rights”.

    1. Hell, why shouldn’t they have access to your wallet? Why should only legal citizens have access to your wallet just because of an accident of birth?

      1. Those lazy foreigners need to step-up and claim asylum if they want to stand in line to loot my wallet. Shikha wants to give them wallet access just for showing up.

  12. Who’s business is it of mine if someone wants to hire/rent to someone else? Why should I get a veto dependent on the origin of that person?

    1. Because I have to pay for the welfare of the people the illegals put out of work. I have to pay the medical costs of your illegals when you dump them off at the emergency room and run away.

      1. And don’t forget the cost in crime, disease, demands on other resources like schools, hospitals.

        When criminal aliens run more than 60 hospitals in L.A. county alone out of business by overloading the emergency rooms (with colds, paper cuts and the like), then paying nothing, they adversely impact the entire area and the cost of YOUR medical care.

  13. To me, this isn’t really an immigration project.

    Its a welfare state project. This is how we try to control access, not to our labor markets, but to our welfare state and misc. taxpayer-supported bennies, like education. You will note that the people trying to buy labor in our labor market are all for open borders. Now, some of those selling labor are opposed, to be sure, so its kind of a mixed bag.

    You can yammer on all you want about how illegals are a net plus for the economy, etc. And that may even be true, but having lived within a couple hours of the Mexican border for the last 7 years, I can assure you that illegals do, in fact, impose a heavy burden on taxpayers and charities.

    Take away the welfare state, and I doubt there would be nearly as much interest in spending money on this kind of border control.

    1. Libertarians sure loves them the welfare state. It’s their universal get out of jail free card. There are no intrinsic problems with anything that can’t be blamed on the welfare state. Seriously, if the welfare state was ever repealed, they’d lose their favorite whipping boy.

      Of course, they’d then be at a bit of a disadvantage explaining why massive immigration from third world countries still manages to create large third world enclaves even without a welfare state. I suppose at that point they’ll be stuck with crying racistxenophobenativist at anyone who notices and doesn’t appreciate their country getting turned into a third world hellhole.

      1. Of course, they’d then be at a bit of a disadvantage explaining why massive immigration from third world countries still manages to create large third world enclaves even without a welfare state.

        Well it clearly doesn’t, so no explanation needed.

    2. having lived within a couple hours of the Mexican border for the last 7 years, I can assure you that illegals do, in fact, impose a heavy burden on taxpayers and charities.

      I’m going to go ahead and not care about your anecdotes when the data is clear that the opposite is true.

  14. This bill is actually – at least according to the “close the border” advocates – a gateway to amnesty.

    see: http://cis.org/vaughan/house-b…..mprovement

    or: http://dailycaller.com/2015/01…..hrow-down/

    The new border security bill being rushed forward by the Republican leadership is merely political theater, says Kenneth Palinkas, head of the union representing the 12,000 federal employees at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service.

    “H.R. 399 ? Chairman [Mike] McCaul’s legislation ? does nothing to preclude anyone in the world from turning themselves in at the U.S. border and obtaining automatic entry and federal benefits,” such as work permits, Palinkas wrote in a Jan. 22 letter.

    The bill doesn’t challenge practices adopted since 2010 by the White House, which ensure that “almost anyone at all can call themselves an asylum-seeker and get in; it’s a global joke,” said Palinkas.

    1. head of the union

      Stop right there. You already know that whatever is coming is bullshit.

      1. Yeah, no doubt you read the complete bill and know every detail and loop-hole.

  15. Implement a biometric exit system at the 15 busiest air, land and sea ports within two years and all ports within five years for all Americans ? not just foreigners ? who step across the border.

    Next epidemic: Pinkeye.

  16. I’m mildly open borders.

    But I don’t want a “comprehensive” immigration bill at all. Thats almost guaranteed to result in less freedom for me.

    Just find out what the current market price for a Coyote is, and charge half that much for a 5 year work permit, good only for Mexicans. Can pay it in installments out of whatever paycheck they get here. That’s it.

    Don’t want the Democratic party importing voters onto their plantation. Don’t want E-verify. Don’t want whatever other crap goes into making it “comprehensive”.

  17. The immigration issue is a funny one to me. It flips the script on the typical party line. R’s typically stand for less restrictions on the movement of capital across borders. R’s also tend to be pro-business, and businesses want access to cheaper labor. Meanwhile the D’s tend to want to protect blue-color jobs from competition.

    Why does this issue do this? Foreigners tend to be very patriotic (they remember how crappy the place they left was), tend to be hard workers and work for lower wages, and despite the perception are the opposite of welfare queens.

    1. Why are there so many Hispanics on welfare in California then?

  18. This is pretty shameful of team read but I don’t think this bill will pass. Sometimes, the Chamber of Commerce works for freedom.

  19. Without a secure border, how do you propose to regulate and oversee “guest workers”?

    1. Execute anyone who enters illegally.

  20. The USA wall is far more akin to the self-ghettoization of the Israeli wall .

  21. “Comprehensive immigration reform” tends to mean Amnesty needs to be in the mix for the Left as does Closing the Borders for the right. As Dalmia seem to suggest, those issues are distractions from fixing the immigration process in the ways suggested. More than a semantic change is needed but this term has become to muddied to be useful.

    1. “too muddied” sorry

  22. “Special interests” don’t want a wall. They want cheap labor (see Chamber of Commerce). The Republicans answer to the people who JUST elected them, and THOSE citizens want border control. That’s the majority of the American people. Check your polls.

    1. Exactly! And Reason is full of shit if they think I support the unrestricted immigration as a libertarian. If your here illegally, we should have the right to kill you and ship your dead body home, if we don’t decide to burn it or use it as fertilizer instead.

  23. This bill is shit and add less than 50 miles of fencing. Even the Border Patrol calls it shit.

  24. If this piece of trash dies, it’ll be no tragedy

    I was thinking the same thing about Reason.

  25. Maybe Reason should change its name to Insanity.

  26. As a Christian, I look at things through that lens. Heaven might be thought to have no borders. Yet if you look closer, it is apparent that to enter in there are very specific requirements. Guess what I’m saying is, if borders and requirements for entry are good enough to God, the Creator, it’s good enough for me!

  27. Another idiotic Dalmia immigration article.
    Only had to go eight lines before the first inanity:

    “the only fool proof way of controlling illegal crossings is by creating a usable guest worker program for low-skilled workers.”

    Does this person get paid to be this stupid?

  28. Comparing our vain attempts to block the ongoing invasion of foreign nationals into our Nation to the Soviets building the Berlin Wall tells me you never studied the history of the Berlin Wall. The 3rd world hellhole that spawned you probably didn’t have schools. When my ancestors began this nation, they intended a Nation based on the Rule of Law. When criminals get a pass just because there are so many of them scurrying about, it is a sure sign of the complete failure of that Rule of Law.
    My recommendation is an active presence of an armed force guarding our border with orders to shoot on sight ANY invaders. The corpses could be flung back across the border to allow those that permitted, and encouraged, this invasion of diseased rejects to clean up their own mess. I expect the body count would be fairly high at first, but would decline over time due to attrition and the capability of even the lowest form of primate to learn crossing our borders illegally was a bad thing to try. We have a system in place for legal immigration. We have millions of LEGAL immigrants. We also have millions waiting to be admitted legally who are in limbo because there are millions of illegal scum clogging up our system. Clean out the plaques clogging our metaphorical arterial system and allow the smooth flow of legal immigrants.

  29. Any illegal alien in the country the first time should be returned to home country. The second time they are caught here illegally they should be convicted of a felony and then they can be used as cheap labor such as building highways while in a chain gang. They could be used to build a real wall just like the great wall of China which would become a fantastic tourist draw. Any money which they may have earned while working illegally should be confiscated just like we do to any American citizen who is caught with sums of cash and is suspected of earning it while in the commission of a crime. Any money an illegal tries to send back home should be taxed at 90%. After all illegals account for the majority of money the country of Mexico takes in every year. More than just about any industry except maybe their oil industry and then it’s real close. But being here illegally is well, illegal and if they are willing to do the crime they should pay for it.

  30. I got yer “comprehensive immigration reform” right here.

    1) Shoot the invaders as they cross the border.
    2) Make is a crime punishable by $1000/day to knowingly rent property to or employ a criminal alien.
    3) Give the criminal aliens 6 months to GET OUT.
    4) At the end of 6 months, any criminal aliens arrested get a mandatory 2-year prison sentence (tent city prison in Arizona under control of Sheriff Arpaio) and forfeiture of all property.

    Now THAT’S comprehensive immigration reform.

  31. The Berlin wall wasn’t erected to keep anyone out, it was built to keep everyone in, including those who got in without permission. The headline is all I read since I figure everything below it must be just as idiotic.

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