Border Numbers

What would common sense tell you about what’s more expensive, border enforcement or entitlement, health care and educational support?  Same with crime, the cost of crime or the cost of point of entry border enforcement?  Would enforcement reduce societal costs as opposed to the costs of rampant drug cartels?  Border States face gangs, kidnappings, murder and drains on social costs; would enforcement be cheaper?  South and Central American gang organizations have spread throughout the country, costs?  Year’s worth of reporting related to Islamist cooperation with drug cartels and passage over our border     (Terrorists Teaming with Drug Cartels, Sara A. Carter, Washington Times, August 8, 2007).

Even in the event that contemporary concerns with sovereignty are put aside, what are the costs of abandoning that idea?”  What of the potential costs related to terrorist operatives crossing the border?  Border security could be the biggest bargain on the table. 

According to Arizona State Senator Sylvia Allen some ranchers see up to 1,200 illegal’s a day cross their property with concomitant damage.  This same rancher has found 17 dead bodies and two Korans on his property in the past two years.  Ranchers also talk about drug trains that cross the border like full blown military operations.  

According to Senator Allen 35% of federal and 20% of the Arizona prison population is illegal.  She claims that 80% of Arizona Law Enforcement casualties are at the hands of illegals.  Senator Allen is in favor of some manner of amnesty but not until the border is secured.       

Senators Kyl and McCain have made a proposal to secure the border that would cost about $5 billion, that number consisting mainly of fence construction and some ongoing costs.  Another way to represent that number is, as equal to 10% of the GM Bailout or as George Will points out, a rounding error in the context of the Federal Budget.  Comparative numbers like that beget questions regarding priorities, policies and politics.     

Once again, as in 2007, American common sense is saying “forget comprehensive for now, secure the border, then we’ll talk.”  There is little downside to securing the border other than on the basis of ideology; this puppy could have been spun from the left for a big win. 

Were Democrats to have taken the lead on this in a significant way instead of making fun of Arizonians and insisting on “comprehensive” they would have snatched away an issue that the right is counting on.   The left, having hypothetically covered the security high ground, could have then moved on “comprehensive whatever” in a context whereby they could not be criticized on security issues.  They go on the high side of an issue that has broad public support; Republicans have to go along with them.  Funding is easy, unspent stimulus money.  Shovel ready, lots of jobs!  Know how to do it and what it costs; been there done that.  Opportunity missed? 

To the left, Democrats could have argued that there was no way for them to get to any form of amnesty or legalization without the fence.  The fence, they could argue, is the threshold issue leading to the legalization of 20 – 30 million illegals.  They would have demanded that the big picture prevail and that the left behave themselves for a while and get ready for the next phase.

The current “fence” remains incomplete; the “fence” was never designed to cover the entirety of the passable border.  Kyl, McCain moves to rectify that situation with a real fence, additional Border Patrol assets and the National Guard for a while.  It is also about the type of fence.  Where fences exist they are mostly single tier systems, get over, cut through and you’re in.  The “new fence” is double and triple layered providing the ability to efficiently and much more safely patrol the border.  It’s a shame Mr. McCain’s epiphany has come so late.

If Democrats aggressively oppose or bury Kyl, McCain they reliably reinforce a perception of weakness related to security issues.  Everyone from the moderate and conservative left to the far right will line up in opposition; unreliability on security issues will move independent and blue dog voters.  

Democrats, assuming a degree of consistency, will spin border security as effective only in the context of “comprehensive reform”.  This is the 2007 issue in reprise but absent an atmosphere of anti incumbency and a movement on the right. In 2007 vast majorities did not buy the argument, fearing amnesty followed by little if any real border security.  Congress and The President backed down, Mr. McCain skulked off. 

There is a rational mix of common sense solutions allowing for some give and take that could address the issue in the context of they are here, and we did let them come.  It does not have to be comprehensive in any immediate sense.  A common sense approach to legalization that allows us to make viable determinations on whom we’re legalizing can be made to work over time.  It must be clear that legal status is not the same as citizenship.  If the citizenship threshold is sufficiently far down the road as to create the likelihood of assimilation, I would consider it.  If legalized aliens get in at the back of the citizenship line, so be it.  Individuals currently in the system legally should be expedited.  We must also identify and lock up the bad guys, deliver them to justice or their homeland.  Illegal’s who can be clearly identified as having long standing attachments to the U.S. might be allowed a different, expedited path.  The system whereby the process toward legal status commences should demand as the initial step by the illegal to identify themselves.  Suspend enforcement efforts against non violent, non criminal elements as a safe haven during the registration period.  Not registered and ID’d after six months? You’re going home.

Legislation could be passed with triggers.  Once the fence fully operational the legalization issues can begin to kick in.  It all begins and ends with border security; it’s really simple common sense.  Attempting to manage bad behavior and at the same time encourage it is a formula any parent can tell you is ill fated.

Will Democrats, once again, swim upstream against public opinion related to a major issue?  Could this be that straw for the proverbial Camel’s back.  Or maybe we’ll just switch to Cap & Trade, oops sorry, the Energy Bill.