The 2012 Budget and Our Unsecured Border

President Obama is taking heat from all sides this week for his 2012 budget proposal, which proposes increased funding for immigration enforcement and border militarization. While immigrant rights advocates are predictably up in arms over the proposal, House Republicans are (somewhat uncharacteristically) demanding significant cuts to border security funding –on the grounds that the Obama administration’s efforts to secure the border have been ineffective and fiscally irresponsible.

Obama’s future immigration priorities remain counterproductive

As Walter Ewing reports at Alternet/Immigration Impact, the proposed Department of Homeland Security (DHS) budget reveals the Obama administration’s consistently conflicted priorities on immigration. While the budget makes good (albeit modestly) on the administration’s promise to fund humane detention alternatives and better oversight of enforcement programs, the overwhelming bulk of the funding supports expansion of controversial and ineffective enforcement programs. Ewing writes:

The enforcement-heavy focus of the President’s proposed DHS budget is readily apparent in the top-line numbers. The budget for Customs and Border Protection (CBP) would be $11.8 billion; up 3 percent from FY 2011. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would receive $5.8 billion, up 1 percent from the previous year. And U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) would get $2.9 billion, down 5 percent from FY 2011. As is so often case, immigration services get the short end of the stick.

The administration’s continued emphasis on border security is particularly troubling in light of three recently released reports which suggest that increased enforcement efforts have proven to be totally ineffective at securing the border.

Despite increased funding, border remains unsecured

According to a newly released report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), more than 93 percent of the American-Mexican border remains porous by DHS’s own standards. The American Independent’s Kyle Daly reports:

Of the 1,969 miles of the border stretching from California to Texas, just 873 miles are deemed secure, according to the standards of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Within those 873, only 129 miles were classified in the GAO report as “controlled,” meaning there are resources in place to either turn away or apprehend people attempting to cross into the United States illegally.

The finding flies in the face of DHS’s increasingly costly efforts to secure the border. Last August, the president signed into law a $600 million border security bill and, more recently, DHS raised funding for aerial border patrol drones to $32 million. The administration’s 2012 budget proposal is similarly gratuitous, including “nearly $300 million for border technology, $229 million for border personnel and more than 40,000 additional border patrol agents and officers,” according to Daly.

Costly border security fails to secure

Meanwhile, the National Immigration Forum and the Immigration Policy Center have each released policy briefs arguing that border enforcement has proven remarkably ineffective. As Nicolas Mendoza explains at Campus Progress, funding for border enforcement has increased exponentially in recent years with little apparent impact on either unauthorized immigration or crime rates at the border:

Border Patrol funding has been increasing dramatically since 2005, rising at an average of $300 million per year. [...] This in spite of the fact that “crime rates were already down in the border region” before the National Guard was deployed, with border cities like El Paso, Texas and San Diego, Calif. boasting some of the lowest crime rates in the country. [...] Meanwhile, the Immigration Policy Center’s report argues that “no specific policy decision to beef up border security in the last 20 to 30 years has significantly reduced the flow of illicit drugs and people into the United States.”

In fact, as one brief points out, the only thing that has managed to decrease unauthorized immigration is the economy; inflows have decreased by 200,000 since the beginning of the recession, as employment (the chief pull factor for unauthorized migrants) has dried up.

House Republicans vote to cut border security funding

On the heels of mounting evidence that border enforcement is both costly and ineffective, House Republicans are retreating from their usual pro-enforcement stance on border security and demanding significant cuts to DHS’s 2012 budget.

Care2′s Robin Marty reports that House members would like to cut $272 million in funding for border surveillance systems and eliminate 870 Border Patrol agents- on the grounds that the Obama administration’s border security efforts have been ineffective at quelling unauthorized immigration. While that’s certainly true, Marty notes that the move may simply be an effort to obstruct Obama’s agenda- at whatever cost.

Unfortunately, if they succeed on the first count, they’ll likely succeed on the second. The GOP has long stated that it would not move forward on comprehensive immigration reform until the border is secured, and the administration has attempted to meet that demand by putting off reform in favor of increasing border enforcement funding and capacity. In return, House Republicans have thumbed their noses at Obama’s border security efforts, painting him as incompetent on immigration and security issues and, in doing so, making it quite clear they won’t help him move forward on comprehensive immigration reform.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint.


Related Stories: 

After Running on Immigration, Republicans Cut Border Security Funding

Senate Republicans Block Border Security Funds

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Photo courtesy of readysubjects
By Catherine A. Traywick, Media Consortium blogger


Jeffrey Clark
Jeffrey Clark6 years ago

This just goes toward proving that the real way to cut illegal immigration is to limit their access to jobs. Wouldn't it be easier to start prosecuting the people who employ them. I am quite sure that as soon as we jail the first millionaire for hiring illegals we will see all the rest stop giving them a reason to be here.

No new laws needed, just enforcement of the existing ones!

Lee Smith
Lee Smith6 years ago

lol that's funny joanna, made me laugh this morning. It's true too.

" After all, if you build a 20 foot high fence, Halliburton will only provide them with 24 foot high ladders."

Lee Smith
Lee Smith6 years ago

some of you good grief! the illegals here get 10 bucks and hour what many "worthless lazy Americans" would like to make.

Only 3 to 4% of the jobs ILLEGALS hold in the USA are agricultural
( crop picking, harvesting planting )

The minutemen already have proven that if you have enough patrol guards it will make a difference.

The drugs get thru b/c both sides want them to. We have failed in the war on drugs what's it been 40 or 50 years? We have failed in the war on terrorist to wit, capturing bin's been almost 10 years...that money could be better spent here inside the USA.

Don't tell me that calling home 10% of our military worldwide and putting them on our border wouldn't stop it.

That plus>>

In fact, as one brief points out, the only thing that has managed to decrease unauthorized immigration is the economy; inflows have decreased by 200,000 since the beginning of the recession, as employment (the chief pull factor for unauthorized migrants) has dried up.

If they cannot get a job here they will not know there are millions of them when you see them every where you go.

Nye S.
Nye Solover6 years ago

Lets face it, if President Obama told everyone to "breathe deeply" the Republicans would hold their breath. No matter what President Obama wants to do the Republicans are against it, now they Reflubs want to end border security, while places like Arizona want stricter enforcement, watching the Reflubs is like watching a bunch of clowns running around, randomly changing directions, bumping into each other and falling on their asses.

William Y.
William Y6 years ago

more insane stupidity

Nelson B.
Nelson Baker6 years ago

All the Republicans need kicked out of office. They are doing nothing positive. Now they want to cut our border protection.

Mary L.
Mary L6 years ago

Wanna bet the Republicans wouldn't have said a word if McCain was prez?

Jack T.
Jack T6 years ago

James Morley says: "Jack T., don't extrapolate"


The extrapolation was done merely to compare the US problem against the UK’s. Would you mind telling me where you found such a fanciful figure as 5 million illegals, James? In my experience, Migration Watch (an organisation which lobbies for reduced immigration) is the most reliable source of such information and they say that 3 million IMMIGRANTS (not illegals) have arrived in the UK during the 13 years of Labour government rule and I have never seen your figure reported by any reputable source. To say that illegals are nearly double the legal ones is just ludicrous. Obviously, by the very clandestine nature of the subject, it is difficult to say exactly how many illegals are in ANY country. But even the Mail newspaper, which tends to exaggerate such things, says there is ‘approaching one million illegals in the UK.’

Linda McKellar
Past Member 6 years ago

I'm gonna' grab me a knap sack and sneak across the border from Canada to the US so I can get me some of that affordable health care, superior education, lotsa' guns and respect for teachers and other public employees. I always wanted to work into my 80's to make ends meet. Yahoo! The American dream. As George Carlin said - "Sure it's a dream, you have to be asleep to believe it!"

Brian F.
Brian F6 years ago

Hypocritical republican liars blame Obama for not securing the border, when they themselves cut funding to increase the border security. Of course all republicans are racist and will never agree to comprehensive immigration reform which is amnesty for non-white non-european hispanics. Janet Napolitano is a blatant liar also saying that the border is secure. Enforcement alone will not solve the problem. But no enforcement or not enough will only make the problem worse. Here is a multistep solution:

1. Increase border patrol to 50,000 agents at the border from it's current 20,000.

2. Finnish as much of the fence as the terrain will allow.

3. E-verify all employees looking for jobs.

4. 20 year mandatory minimum for any employer hiring an illegal immigrant.

5. 20 year mandatory minimum for any coyotes or human trafficking smugglers who are caught.

6. Increase ICE raids based on credible tips and information.

7. Deport immediately any illegal immigrants discovered.

8. Eliminate all santuaries like Texas and Washington State which lets illegal immigrants get driver's licenses. No driver's licences for illegal immigrants anywhere in the USA.