Rejoice! Our Border Is More Secure Than Ever!

 

640px-CBP_Unmanned_aerial_vehicleIn this series, I’m looking at the changes made since Reagan took power and since Obama lost his supermajority. I’m breaking immigration down to three posts: border security, internal enforcement, and amnesty. I start with border security, because it is the most misunderstood.

Unless one’s concern with immigration focuses on East Asians, Jews, or Italians — in which case things have certainly become more liberal over the last century (but not the last half century) — the initial entry point of immigration is more secure than it has ever been. That’s not to say that there are not valid immigration-related concerns, but they really tend to fall into two categories: immigration concerns that are not about border security and concerns that the improved border security has not improved enough. The third category of “border security is less effective” is a null set.

Background

The first real efforts at border security came under Teddy Roosevelt, because of course they did. He created the “Mounted Watchmen” — a grand total of 75 at their height — mostly operating out of El Paso. Wilson took the next step: the “Immigrant Inspectors” got motor vehicles and a couple of boats and the number of boats would not significantly increase until George W. Bush. They also got offices, broadly setting up the system for the 20th Century. Saint Calvin Coolidge created the Border Patrol in 1924 and increased its personnel to 450, largely in response to prohibition era smuggling (notably absent from Amity Schlaes’ account). Eisenhower started a practice of tracking flights across the border.

Since there was no quota on Mexican immigration until 1964 (you could still immigrate illegally, but the incentives were more about avoiding the paperwork than about entering the country), the Border Patrol was pretty heavily focused on law enforcement of more traditional kinds. As such, Nixon’s war on drugs was something of a boon to border enforcement.

Reagan

As any libertarian will tell you, Reagan militarized the border. For the first time, helicopter gunships and airplanes with TV cameras and infrared sensors were deployed, along with seismic, magnetic, and acoustic sensors. There was even a fence, of sorts (they used a small amount of chain link fencing). If you care to sample some liberal tears on the subject, this 1997 book is a pretty good place to start. Imagine the misery of the author as every concern he has becomes stronger, as every issue he fights for turns out to be one that he loses. Reagan supported amnesty but supporting amnesty does not mean being weak on the border, and Reagan most certainly was not weak on the border. Just how transformative he was can be seen in the chart on page 97 of this book. You will also see that Reagan’s expansions were just a foretaste of what was to come.

The most obvious thing you will see in the chart is the enormous difference made by the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which conservatives often deride as having delivered amnesty without delivering the accompanying promised security. It did provide the amnesty, and a worse amnesty than was anticipated (many later immigrants were able to fraudulently backdate their entry), but it really did increase security as well. I’ll return to that in my post on internal enforcement, because E-Verify is also authorized under the IRCA, although that obviously took a long time to come to fruition.

After Reagan, Aside from the Fence

The Atlantic has quite a nice chart describing the increase of border patrol agents from 1992 to 2011.

Border Agents

As you can see, the numbers of agents on the border has not merely increased, but exploded, and on a bipartisan basis. They’ve done this during a period when federal employees in general have shrunk from a little over 3 million people to a little under 2.7. In case you’re concerned by those numbers still appearing a little low, rest assured that the number of border patrol agents for 2016 is set to be 21,370 in the DHS budget, and the Omnibus funds that fully. Employment numbers are not the data that changes the most, though. Agents are also dramatically better equipped and supported than their predecessors, as this chart I made from this data shows.

Patrol Budget dollars

​Since I’ve repeatedly claimed that nominal dollars are not a meaningful statistic over the long term, here’s that chart again as a percentage of GDP.

Border Patrol Budget

Border Patrol agents now have a vast array of muscle behind them. They have drones, sophisticated sensors, boats (a whole lot more than they used to), remote cameras. They have vehicles that allow them to easily move additional monitoring capabilities to any place they choose, with electro-optical, infrared, radar, and laser, sensors alongside a host of command and control gadgetry. It should go without saying that the latest in aircraft for these things also have a terrific variety of different tools to track, monitor, and record illegal border crossers such that they can be easily arrested and can be swiftly convicted. Their sensors are smarter than they used to be, and better at working out what the agents need to be alerted to. They have sophisticated biometric field equipment so that they can identify people they run into without documents. And, of course, they have the fence.

The Fence

There are a lot of misconceptions about the fence; many think of it as some kind of analog to the Berlin Wall. As a result, claims are made about a fifteen-foot fence being defeated by a sixteen-foot ladder. In fact, the fence is not designed to be impossible to scale. There are two chief functions to the fence. Firstly, although it is possible to drive from Mexico City to the border, get out, put your stuff in a rucksack, climb over the fence, and have your buddy from LA pick you up on the other side, that’s an awful lot more hassle than simply driving yourself; stopping vehicles is valuable. To analogize, it is more or less impossible to make your home secure against people who would break in, but you’re likely to reduce the rate at which that happens in neighborhoods with many budding criminals if you have a door that locks.

More importantly, the fence makes it easy to see when people are crossing the border. When the Border Patrol guys talk about their high tech mobile stations being able to operate on a twelve mile radius, that’s only because of the fence. The fence is not a substitute for agents, but a force multiplier for them, like the sensors, the planes, and all the other things that are dramatically more useful because of the fence.

There was a time when speculation about whether the fence was useful had a place. That was before 1993, before Clinton’s efforts in Operation Hold The Line around El Paso, and more so before 1994’s Operation Gatekeeper at the San Diego border. After that, there was a decade in which it was incontrovertible that the fence worked in built up areas, but one could make the sixteen-foot ladder claim about the rural areas. Now we have the fence built along most of the border, and there is no longer any respectable claim to be made about its efficiency. It’s partly for that reason that Obama (and Clinton) voted for the Secure Fence Act when they were in the Senate and continued building the fence after taking power. He’s mostly stopped now; 2016 should see a sector of fence in Arizona be rebuilt, better than before. This is mostly because the fence is just about complete outside Texas. America’s borders are simply enormous: when I lived in Iraq and Mrs. Of England was in the UK, we were in a shorter-distance relationship than some Americans are who live within the lower 48 states.

There’s a good basic map of the fence below, although weirdly it suggests that there isn’t fence around San Diego, where some of the first fencing was built, and it doesn’t include Obama’s completion of the Secure Fence Act’s remit, since it dates to 2009. Still, it gives a sense of things. In particular, it helps you see why, although the chief point of entry for illegal immigrants used to be San Diego, it’s now the Rio Grande Valley. For some reason, Rick Perry and a large number of other Texan Republicans have been simply terrible on the wall.

Border Fence

Border Arrests

When I was riding along with the Border Patrol a decade back, the complaints about “catch-and-release” had merits. You could talk to would-be immigrants who would be open about having failed to cross one day, but planning to try again tomorrow. The Bush Administration responded by shifting towards a greater emphasis on “removals,” in which people are more likely to be taken into custody, tried, and punished (generally, with a minimum of being excluded from the country on a fairly long term basis being issued, rather than “returns” in which they were simply deposited back on their own side of the border).

This was stepped up yet further with Obama’s “consequence delivery mechanism” and numerous reforms streamlining the immigration judicial system, so that now up to forty people can have a hearing together. Additionally, the Mexico Interior Repatriation Program does what Trump likes about Ike’s immigration enforcement: it deposits Mexicans in the south of the country, rather than back at the border. Similarly, the Alien Transfer Exit program transports Mexicans to a different part of the country than the part they would like to return to. Additionally, courts have access to a variety of other punishments — major and minor — including jail sentences, fines, and such.

This — combined with the fence, the extra guards, the superior monitoring, and gradually improving, if grudging and inconsistent cooperation from the Mexican government — means that the number of people crossing plummeted. Discouraging frequent visiting means that the minority of illegal immigrants who previously made up a substantial portion of returns made a significant impact on its own. Although a number of Republican candidates strongly condemn the Obama and Bush administrations falling rates of “deportations” (by which they mostly mean the catch-and-release stuff), almost all of them would pursue the same policies that lead to that reduction; they, therefore, would be likely to have their own statistics look even worse by the flawed metric being used. As a result, most illegal immigration now takes the form of visa overstays, which cannot be prevented at the border, but which I will address in my post on internal enforcement. The reduction in border crossings has been particularly pronounced in the West. As I mentioned earlier, California used to lead the nation this way, but it’s the Rio Grande Valley and the South East portion of the Texas border that outperform the rest of the nation in letting immigrants through. Immigrant deaths are lower in areas with a fence, too.

There are numerous judicial reforms that allow processing to be conducted more quickly for those who ought to leave. Operation Streamline is the highest profile and has caused many tears on the Left — while remaining almost unknown on the Right — while the numbers of categorized trusted travelers who can pass through the border with quick biometric tests has gone from zero to many in the last decade or so. Today, visa waivers are evaluated before people fly in, meaning that they can be turned away with less hassle than before and that there is plenty of time to examine the cases without being too much of a jerk about it. Anyone who has traveled through, say, Dulles airport internationally and who knows where to look will have noticed that the speed through which one can travel through immigration has greatly improved when there is no cause for concern, but there is more attention paid to screening the difficult cases. The recidivism rate for illegal entry appears to have almost halved (fig. 7; the whole report is pretty interesting).

There was a concern in 2014 that children deliberately getting arrested represented a tremendous loophole in effective security; there’s really no way of stopping people from crossing and surrendering to the authorities. Thankfully, collaboration with Mexican and other authorities seems to have worked as numbers appear to have dropped off in 2015 and that awful debate ought not to become the new normal. Since I wrote this, I’ve been alerted to a spike in the last couple of reported months, suggesting that fiscal 2016 may be above 2015 in unaccompanied children, although it’s still below the average for 2014.

2016

Of the key actors in the upcoming Presidential election, Obama, Clinton, Trump, Bush, Carson, Rubio, and Cruz support the wall and approve of there being an ever growing border patrol. Unless a miracle occurs and Fiorina, Christie, or Sanders wins the nomination, we will have a general election between two fence and border protection advocates. There is a widespread confusion among conservatives that says that x cannot be trusted to improve border security because they support amnesty. It is hard to overstate how incorrect a hermeneutic this is. The most extreme amnesty supporter in the Republican Primary, Jeb Bush, is also the guy who has done the most to improve border security, working with the Coast Guard and other agencies to integrate Florida’s border security systems with each other. In the 2008 Democratic primary, both candidates supported a stronger defense of the border while also both supporting amnesty. There was a concern last year that we would see endless waves of children, but the response seems to have been effective enough that we did not see a wave this year.

If your concern is about a nation needing secure borders to be a real country, then you really need not worry about the US, which has a more fortified and militarized border than almost any country in history. It’s a long border, so the Patrol sometimes takes a while to catch people who cross, but they generally do, and they’re getting better at it all the time, and seem likely to do so for the foreseeable future. Obviously, it’s far from perfect, and one should still worry about a nuke or other horror being smuggled across, but illegal border crossing from Mexico is no longer the sort of demographic threat that it once was.

There is disagreement on the Republican side about how much to grow the immigration bureaucracy, but all of the leading candidates want to do so. Bush hasn’t given figures, but is clear in his book, Immigration Wars, that adding to the force is a priority. Carson is similar. Rubio would double the number of Border Patrol agents, Cruz promises to triple their ranks, Trump would triple the number of ICE agents and, I think, have them take a greater degree of responsibility for the border. Since the actual details will come from Congress, it seems to me that we have a near universal Republican consensus on the conservative position, with the Democrats not being that far behind.

Obviously, as one moves to other areas of immigration policy this stops being the case, but we should not suggest that our borders are unusually weak, too weak to allow ourselves to count as a country; if America doesn’t qualify, just about nowhere in history does. When Trump does it, it’s understandable ignorance. When better informed candidates, lobbyists, and hacks do, it’s because they believe it to be in their interest to mislead you. Instead, we should internalize and celebrate our victory on this issue.

There are 107 comments.

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  1. Member

    Increased Border Patrol agents are meaningless since they now function primarily to welcome illegals, guide them to shelters, and hand out welfare applications. The Obama administration has officially reclassified illegal immigrants from Central America as “refugees,” but the end result is still the same: a steady in-flow of cheap labor, welfare recipients, and eventual Democrat voters.

    Not to mention, the anchor-babies of previous illegal immigrants are legally entitled, under immigration law, to bring in as many relatives as they like. It’s legal, so it doesn’t count as illegal immigration. The end effect of expanding welfare and Democrat voter rolls is the same, though.

    And the “Border Fence” is not the double-layer, razor wire fence required by the 2006 Border Security Act. In many places, it’s just some vehicle barriers illegals can easily hop or bypass. In some places, it’s not much more than a drooping wire. There are also vast areas of Arizona where the drug cartels act with impunity, and ranchers are still subject to trespassing, vandalism, theft and sometimes armed robbery; all tolerated by the Border Patrol and the Administration.

    vehicle-barrier-fence-on-us-mexico-border-in-southern-arizona-E87996

    • #1
    • December 30, 2015 at 5:30 am
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  2. Inactive

    Some good information here. I look forward to your post(s) on internal enforcement and amnesty.

    I believe that unless we address the next points in your series the border security component is a show piece and little else.

    • #2
    • December 30, 2015 at 5:47 am
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  3. Moderator
    James Of England Post author

    V the K:Increased Border Patrol agents are meaningless since they now function primarily to welcome illegals, guide them to shelters, and hand out welfare applications.

    The numbers of illegal immigrants who face detention and other punitive consequences is higher than it has ever been. The number of crossings appears to be lower, and the recidivism rate is lower (same source).

    The Obama administration has officially reclassified illegal immigrants from Central America as “refugees,” but the end result is still the same: a steady in-flow of cheap labor, welfare recipients, and eventual Democrat voters.

    They haven’t classified all Central American illegal immigrants as refugees. There have always been Central American refugees. The numbers went up in 2014, but they’re still in the tens of thousands; it’s quite a lot less than previous levels of border crossing. Responses included a significant rise in Mexican deportations sending them back South before they get to the US border and various improvements in border security in Central America intended to achieve the same result, along with some “root causes” efforts at improving the rule of law.

    Not to mention, the anchor-babies of previous illegal immigrants are legally entitled, under immigration law, to bring in as many relatives as they like.

    While chain migration is a thing, for an anchor baby to provide a basis for immigration for the parents, they have to reach the age of 21, at which point they can apply, assuming the parents haven’t been in the US for 10 years (there’s a ten year exclusion after being illegally present). The numbers of people who successfully pull off that long game are pretty small.

    It’s legal, so it doesn’t count as illegal immigration. The end effect of expanding welfare and Democrat voter rolls is the same, though.

    It is true that legal immigration presents some of the same issues as illegal immigration. I’m not dealing with it in this series, though, because there is no conservative position on the issue. Some, such as Ted Cruz, want more legal immigration. Some, such as Ted Cruz, want less legal immigration. Whereas amnesty, internal enforcement, and border security are all rule of law issues pertaining to core conservative concepts going all the way back to the founding of the school of thought under Burke, and the latter two are security issues, legal immigration appears to have no dispositive connection to an identifiable conservative position.

    • #3
    • December 30, 2015 at 5:56 am
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  4. Moderator
    James Of England Post author

    V the K:And the “Border Fence” is not the double-layer, razor wire fence required by the 2006 Border Security Act. In many places, it’s just some vehicle barriers illegals can easily hop or bypass. In some places, it’s not much more than a drooping wire. There are also vast areas of Arizona where the drug cartels act with impunity, and ranchers are still subject to trespassing, vandalism, theft and sometimes armed robbery; all tolerated by the Border Patrol and the Administration.

    vehicle-barrier-fence-on-us-mexico-border-in-southern-arizona-E87996

    Did you edit this comment? I don’t know how I missed the second half.

    The Secure Fence Act of 2006 does mandate that some areas of the fence have double layers. This has happened; I’ve traveled along some of it. This is a representative portion of the text:

    “(1) Security features.–

    “(A) Reinforced fencing.–In carrying out

    subsection (a), the Secretary of Homeland Security shall

    provide for least 2 layers of reinforced fencing, the

    installation of additional physical barriers, roads,

    lighting, cameras, and sensors–

    “(i) extending from 10 miles west of the

    Tecate, California, port of entry to 10 miles east

    of the Tecate, California, port of entry;

    “(ii) extending from 10 miles west of the

    Calexico, California, port of entry to 5 miles

    east of the Douglas, Arizona, port of entry;

    “(iii) extending from 5 miles west of the

    Columbus, New Mexico, port of entry to 10 miles

    east of El Paso, Texas;

    “(iv) extending from 5 miles northwest of the

    Del Rio, Texas, port of entry to 5 miles southeast

    of the Eagle Pass, Texas, port of entry; and

    “(v) extending 15 miles northwest of the

    Laredo, Texas, port of entry to the Brownsville,

    Texas, port of entry.

    I’m not aware of any mandated razor wire anywhere. I cannot recall ever seeing razor wire. As I explain in the post, it’s not terribly obvious that razor wire would be particularly helpful, and vehicle barriers when combined with paths that make for a clear line of site, protection for sensors, and that make it exceptionally obvious where the border is all help in making it more difficult to travel, but more importantly make it much easier to find, detain, and deport the border crossers.

    I’m not sure if you’re suggesting that the border patrol catch people red handed engaging in armed robbery and blow it off, or if you believe that they ought to devote more attention to investigating crimes. In general, criminal investigation of non-immigration offenses is left to the state police. There is often coordination and some offenses (smuggling) also attract the attention of the Patrol, but unless there’s a cross border component to a particular instance of armed robbery (laundering?), it’s hard to see why the Patrol would be the appropriate agency.

    In general, armed robbery, theft, and such are declining, but I should probably reserve discussion of crime rates for a future entry.

    • #4
    • December 30, 2015 at 6:09 am
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  5. Moderator
    James Of England Post author

    BrentB67:Some good information here. I look forward to your post(s) on internal enforcement and amnesty.

    I believe that unless we address the next points in your series the border security component is a show piece and little else.

    There are other benefits to security. Spend any time with CBP PR folks and you’ll be told a lot about Palestinian terrorist efforts at smuggling and such. Still, I agree one needs to have all three: a secure border, efficient internal enforcement, and a lack of amnesty in order to create the culture of the rule of law that the current immigration system is somewhat struggling to create.

    • #5
    • December 30, 2015 at 6:13 am
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  6. Member

    2016 budget includes $1.6 Billion for resettling illegal immigrants in the USA. This is mostly to handle the surge of illegal Central American immigrants at our “secure” border.

    • #6
    • December 30, 2015 at 6:27 am
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  7. Inactive

    And how might one explain this?

    http://www.judicialwatch.org/press-room/press-releases/judicial-watch-uncovers-usda-records-sponsoring-u-s-food-stamp-program-for-illegal-aliens/

    • #7
    • December 30, 2015 at 6:41 am
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  8. Moderator
    James Of England Post author

    V the K:2016 budget includes $1.6 Billion for resettling illegal immigrants in the USA. This is mostly to handle the surge of illegal Central American immigrants at our “secure” border.

    Yes. This is true. Again, though, it’s not really about border security; these kids aren’t sneaking into the country. They’re openly entering the country and surrendering themselves to the authorities. Perhaps you’re confusing the fence with something like the Berlin Wall, intended to be physically impossible to cross. That’s not the plan; the fence is there to discourage illegal crossing and to make it easier to apprehend those who do so.

    Rick Perry’s line about the wall being overcome by ladders misses this point, but it is absolutely relevant to the question of stopping someone who wants to get caught. So far as I know, the only way of accomplishing that is to stop them before they get to the US Border.

    The resettling is primarily a feature of treatment for those who are not illegal immigrants, but who are found to have qualified for visas. Again, you’re correct to note that there are questions over the criteria under which legal immigration ought to be permitted, but that’s not a question that can be resolved through border security.

    • #8
    • December 30, 2015 at 6:54 am
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  9. Inactive

    Your premise is that the reality of border security is vastly different than the public perception, that is, it is better than ever. That of course is very feasible premise to me, based on my observation of culture and politics in other areas. Please continue.

    • #9
    • December 30, 2015 at 7:05 am
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  10. Moderator
    James Of England Post author

    Robert McReynolds:And how might one explain this?

    http://www.judicialwatch.org/press-room/press-releases/judicial-watch-uncovers-usda-records-sponsoring-u-s-food-stamp-program-for-illegal-aliens/

    The only border security component I see to this is that these programs are part of the bargaining tools that gets the Mexican government to cooperate in enhancing border security, which it did not use to do. Could you be more explicit in explaining the border security angle?

    • #10
    • December 30, 2015 at 7:39 am
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  11. Contributor

    James has stepped in it now. You dare contradict the words of conservative talk radio? Would you prefer to be burned for your heresy, or stoned?

    • #11
    • December 30, 2015 at 7:40 am
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  12. Moderator
    James Of England Post author

    Wiley:Your premise is that the reality of border security is vastly different than the public perception, that is, it is better than ever. That of course is very feasible premise to me, based on my observation of culture and politics in other areas. Please continue.

    It’s also that there’s a mistaken belief that border security and amnesty are the same issue. People say “because candidate X has a mistaken position on Y, we can’t trust them on Z” In fact, lots of politicians are consistently pro-fence but pro-amnesty and Fiorina is anti-fence and anti-amnesty (partly; she likes the DREAM Act, but she doesn’t like general amnesties or executive DREAM amnesties).

    • #12
    • December 30, 2015 at 7:47 am
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  13. Moderator
    James Of England Post author

    Frank Soto:James has stepped in it now. You dare contradict the words of conservative talk radio? Would you prefer to be burned for your heresy, or stoned?

    As I understand it, conservative gatherings are places where even squares can have a ball; since we don’t get stoned, I guess I’ll have to burn. If you’re happy to wait until Mrs. of England returns from her extended Christmas, I can confirm that the attendant fever is, in fact, a lovely way to do that.

    • #13
    • December 30, 2015 at 7:49 am
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  14. Inactive

    James Of England:

    Wiley:Your premise is that the reality of border security is vastly different than the public perception, that is, it is better than ever. That of course is very feasible premise to me, based on my observation of culture and politics in other areas. Please continue.

    It’s also that there’s a mistaken belief that border security and amnesty are the same issue. People say “because candidate X has a mistaken position on Y, we can’t trust them on Z” In fact, lots of politicians are consistently pro-fence but pro-amnesty and Fiorina is anti-fence and anti-amnesty (partly; she likes the DREAM Act, but she doesn’t like general amnesties or executive DREAM amnesties).

    I am not sure the argument is that X has a mistaken position on Y or however it is couched.

    I think the argument is that unless we have strident internal enforcement and deportation the inducement to come here illegally outweighs all of the of measures you detail in your article.

    Gov. Perry understand the issue better than most. His 35′ ladders vs. 30′ walls is a real problem and he should know given his penchant for supporting inducements for illegal immigration that contributed to his downfall.

    • #14
    • December 30, 2015 at 7:55 am
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  15. Inactive

    James Of England:

    Robert McReynolds:And how might one explain this?

    http://www.judicialwatch.org/press-room/press-releases/judicial-watch-uncovers-usda-records-sponsoring-u-s-food-stamp-program-for-illegal-aliens/

    The only border security component I see to this is that these programs are part of the bargaining tools that gets the Mexican government to cooperate in enhancing border security, which it did not use to do. Could you be more explicit in explaining the border security angle?

    Sure thing, from the piece linked to:

    Emphasized in bold and underlined, the statement reads, “You need not divulge information regarding your immigration status in seeking this benefit for your children.”

    If this does not have a border security angle to it, then why would you advertise this in a foreign state? Would it not make more sense to advertise this in areas where it is suspected that illegal immigrants already reside INSIDE the US?

    • #15
    • December 30, 2015 at 8:03 am
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  16. Inactive

    BrentB67:

    James Of England:

    Wiley:Your premise is that the reality of border security is vastly different than the public perception, that is, it is better than ever. That of course is very feasible premise to me, based on my observation of culture and politics in other areas. Please continue.

    It’s also that there’s a mistaken belief that border security and amnesty are the same issue. People say “because candidate X has a mistaken position on Y, we can’t trust them on Z” In fact, lots of politicians are consistently pro-fence but pro-amnesty and Fiorina is anti-fence and anti-amnesty (partly; she likes the DREAM Act, but she doesn’t like general amnesties or executive DREAM amnesties).

    I am not sure the argument is that X has a mistaken position on Y or however it is couched.

    I think the argument is that unless we have strident internal enforcement and deportation the inducement to come here illegally outweighs all of the of measures you detail in your article.

    Bingo!! What good is the law if it is not going to be enforced? If there was no guarantee of harsh punishment, banks would be robbed on a daily basis. But for the aggressive enforcement of the law, we have a stable society. Please spare me the “banks are still robbed” argument. The logic holds that there would be a dramatic increase if there was not a punishment for those few that happen.

    • #16
    • December 30, 2015 at 8:07 am
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  17. Moderator
    James Of England Post author

    BrentB67:

    James Of England:

    Wiley:Your premise is that the reality of border security is vastly different than the public perception, that is, it is better than ever. That of course is very feasible premise to me, based on my observation of culture and politics in other areas. Please continue.

    It’s also that there’s a mistaken belief that border security and amnesty are the same issue. People say “because candidate X has a mistaken position on Y, we can’t trust them on Z” In fact, lots of politicians are consistently pro-fence but pro-amnesty and Fiorina is anti-fence and anti-amnesty (partly; she likes the DREAM Act, but she doesn’t like general amnesties or executive DREAM amnesties).

    I am not sure the argument is that X has a mistaken position on Y or however it is couched.

    I think the argument is that unless we have strident internal enforcement and deportation the inducement to come here illegally outweighs all of the of measures you detail in your article.

    Gov. Perry understand the issue better than most. His 35′ ladders vs. 30′ walls is a real problem and he should know given his penchant for supporting inducements for illegal immigration that contributed to his downfall.

    The 35′ ladders line depends on a basic misunderstanding of the purpose of the fence. The fence is not designed to be physically impassible. Even at the most heavily reinforced points, you’re quite correct that an athletic migrant can travel easily over it with little equipment.

    Likewise, the drones, sensors, smart cameras, and such don’t stop anyone from crossing. They just help the Border Patrol find the people who are crossing and return/ interview/ detain/ deport them as appropriate and/ or confiscating their contraband.

    The fence is a little better, since it also directly persuades a fair number of people not to cross, including people who aren’t particularly smart; it has, at its stronger points, a fairly commanding presence. There’s also the additional coordination required, as mentioned above, but the people who I spoke to who were persuaded that the fence was uncrossable didn’t seem to have thought things through that hard. I suspect that although the vehicle fences have most of the rational utility of the big double fencing, but there’s a real psychological impact to the big foreboding walls.

    • #17
    • December 30, 2015 at 8:09 am
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  18. Inactive

    Also, the premise that offering some form of amnesty while promising to provide some form of border security is shaky. What is the incentive to politicians that would seemingly benefit from the new citizens to ensure that there would not be a need to create new citizens in the future? Is that not what was promised in 1986? Do this bill and no longer have to deal with it.

    The very notion that politicians WANT to offer some way to gain full citizenship to people who have come here illegally is evidence enough to conclude that there will be no serious attempt to prevent another bloc of illegals in the future. That is just plain common sense.

    • #18
    • December 30, 2015 at 8:11 am
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  19. Contributor

    Awesome. There’s 18,000 g-men doing the same
    job 3,000 were able to do 20 years ago with less gear?

    Hooray for limited government!

    • #19
    • December 30, 2015 at 8:13 am
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  20. Inactive

    Until we secure our border, all discussions like this amount to navel gazing. It really doesn’t matter what Teddy did. A nation without a border is a contradiction in terms.

    • #20
    • December 30, 2015 at 8:19 am
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  21. Inactive

    James Of England:

    BrentB67:

    James Of England:

    Wiley:

    I am not sure the argument is that X has a mistaken position on Y or however it is couched.

    I think the argument is that unless we have strident internal enforcement and deportation the inducement to come here illegally outweighs all of the of measures you detail in your article.

    Gov. Perry understand the issue better than most. His 35′ ladders vs. 30′ walls is a real problem and he should know given his penchant for supporting inducements for illegal immigration that contributed to his downfall.

    The 35′ ladders line depends on a basic misunderstanding of the purpose of the fence.

    I disagree. Perry’s point was that building a 30′ fortress from Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific is useless as long as we offer inducement (lax enforcement, liberal 14A interpretation, in-state tuition, etc.) for aliens to find a way to scale the wall.

    Perry contradicted himself in that he was an architect of the inducements and thus one of the reasons he watches debates from his couch.

    The fence is not designed to be physically impassible. Even at the most heavily reinforced points, you’re quite correct that an athletic migrant can travel easily over it with little equipment.

    I understand and agree, that is not the point of Perry’s statement.

    • #21
    • December 30, 2015 at 8:19 am
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  22. Inactive

    Fred Cole:Awesome. There’s 18,000 g-men doing the same job 3,000 were able to do 20 years ago with less gear?

    Hooray for limited government!

    National sovereignty is one of the few things the federal government is empowered to enforce.

    If you want to limit the government’s activity in this arena you have to first amend the Constitution.

    I am as strident a limited government advocate as there is on Ricochet, but the few things the Federal is responsible for I want done without limits. All else they should stay as far away as possible.

    • #22
    • December 30, 2015 at 8:21 am
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  23. Moderator
    James Of England Post author

    Robert McReynolds:Also, the premise that offering some form of amnesty while promising to provide some form of border security is shaky. What is the incentive to politicians that would seemingly benefit from the new citizens to ensure that there would not be a need to create new citizens in the future? Is that not what was promised in 1986? Do this bill and no longer have to deal with it.

    That’s the old Libertarian fallacy: “if this law does not totally solve the problem, it’s no good”. Most good laws, though, just reduce problems. Homicide laws reduce murders, but they still happen. The 1986 law greatly reduced illegal crossing, but it’s only responsible for doubling the Patrol. Taking it up to ten times the size improved things yet further, but the Rubio/ Cruz proposed doubling or tripling would make it more secure still.

    Internal enforcement was improved, eventually, by the IRCA, but we’ll still have to pass more laws to make it better still. Those laws will also not totally solve the problem, but they will result in government leaving a smaller footprint on law abiding citizens and a greater degree of compliance by those less inclined to obey. As noted in the OP, though, internal enforcement is another post so I shouldn’t get into it here.

    The 1986 amnesty was terribly designed, and I agree that there are some trade offs that put it in tension with the rest of the IRCA. I think on balance, the IRCA was probably worth it in terms of improving our control over immigration, but I can see arguments going the other way. I’m not claiming that the desire for amnesty is an admirable one.

    The very notion that politicians WANT to offer some way to gain full citizenship to people who have come here illegally is evidence enough to conclude that there will be no serious attempt to prevent another bloc of illegals in the future. That is just plain common sense.

    You mean because their only possible motive is to increase Democratic votes? Why do you think that McCain wanted amnesty despite the clear fact that a majority of the new voters would support his opponents?

    • #23
    • December 30, 2015 at 8:28 am
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  24. Contributor

    So since the government allegedly needs
    To do this urgent thing (which it didn’t need to do until 100 years ago and didn’t get serious about until prohibition), it means that it’s okay to waste money on it?

    Why do we need six times as many guys to do the same
    Job? The border isn’t any longer. They have better gear now than 20 years ago. Why do we need six times as
    Many guys?

    • #24
    • December 30, 2015 at 8:29 am
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  25. Contributor

    Tom Riehl:Until we secure our border, all discussions like this amount to navel gazing. It really doesn’t matter what Teddy did. A nation without a border is a contradiction in terms.

    I don’t understand. James is arguing that border security is better than ever, and you are saying his discussion is worthless because the border isn’t secure. Isn’t that exactly the type of disagreement where discussion is warranted?

    • #25
    • December 30, 2015 at 8:32 am
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  26. Inactive

    Fred Cole:So since the government allegedly needs To do this urgent thing (which it didn’t need to do until 100 years ago and didn’t get serious about until prohibition), it means that it’s okay to waste money on it?

    Why do we need six times as many guys to do the same Job? The border isn’t any longer. They have better gear now than 20 years ago. Why do we need six times as Many guys?

    I make a distinction between limited government and efficient government. You’ll get no argument from me that the federal government can be more efficient and cost effective.

    The reason we need six times as many guys is we have a beloved welfare state that socializes the consequences of individual choices.

    This wasn’t a problem when the only reason people came here was to work, build a better life, learn English and become Americans.

    • #26
    • December 30, 2015 at 8:33 am
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  27. Contributor

    Fred Cole: So since the government allegedly needs To do this urgent thing (which it didn’t need to do until 100 years ago and didn’t get serious about until prohibition), it means that it’s okay to waste money on it?

    Not a big fan of history, and avoiding the mistakes of it, eh Fred?

    • #27
    • December 30, 2015 at 8:33 am
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  28. Inactive

    James Of England: Snipped for space.

    Now James, don’t put words in my mouth. It is practically indisputable that humans react to incentives. If there was no incentive to secure the border before–or at least create a regimen where border security is the norm instead of the exception–then why should I expect there to be any genuine attempt to secure the border in the future?

    Your homicide law comment holds no sway, as I already addressed that line of argument.

    The numbers just don’t bare out your claim about the 86 law. If there was a decrease, then how do we have an estimated 11 million to 30 million now? Weren’t there an estimated 5 million in 86?

    My guess about the GOP willingly committing political suicide is that they either think that they can shave enough of the Hispanic vote away for it not to matter, or they are more beholden to Chamber Comm money than they are to their own constituents, particularly the safe senators like McVain.

    • #28
    • December 30, 2015 at 8:42 am
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  29. Moderator
    James Of England Post author

    BrentB67:

    James Of England:

    BrentB67:

    The 35′ ladders line depends on a basic misunderstanding of the purpose of the fence.

    I disagree. Perry’s point was that building a 30′ fortress from Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific is useless as long as we offer inducement (lax enforcement, liberal 14A interpretation, in-state tuition, etc.) for aliens to find a way to scale the wall.

    That’s not how incentives work, though. If you make it less likely that people will succeed in crossing the border (ie. do so without getting apprehended), then you will reduce the number of people who successfully cross the border, partly because more will be apprehended, and partly because others will be persuaded not to try.

    There are many reasons that people illegally cross the border. My most memorable interview was with a guy who’d managed to get his wife across in the early 1980s to a better hospital, a decision that probably saved the lives of his heavily premature triplets. Some people will want to pursue amorous connections. Some follow legitimate business opportunities, some imagined, some illegitimate. Even if Perry had been Tom Tancredo, there would still be many reasons to want to be in Texas. I don’t believe that any government program incentivized me, but I have very fond memories of my time in Port Arthur. Texans provided me with a more compelling magnet than anything that Bush or Perry could have dreamed of, let alone passed.

    It’s not a binary deal. Without government magnets, you’d still have illegal immigration. With them, you have more. With security, you still have illegal immigration. Without it, you have more.

    Perry contradicted himself in that he was an architect of the inducements and thus one of the reasons he watches debates from his couch.

    Recognizing trade-offs and attempting to minimize the poor outcomes isn’t a contradiction. I like to think that being the primary opponent of fencing in the US and running on being a fence proponent was more unfortunate. I suspect that we’re both wrong, though, and that it was ultimately about the media’s weird obsession with “oops” and the glasses. Like Howard Dean, there were good reasons for the downfall and reasons to believe that he was better than his opposition, but a stupid and unfair media moment outweighed all that.

    The fence is not designed to be physically impassible. Even at the most heavily reinforced points, you’re quite correct that an athletic migrant can travel easily over it with little equipment.

    I understand and agree, that is not the point of Perry’s statement.

    His point, as I understood it, is that one can cross the fence, which is why I find the drone analogy helpful; everyone recognizes that drones are useful, and no one thinks that the point of drones is to physically restrain people.

    This is meaningful because V’s comment about razor wire really is how a lot of people think of the wall; as being akin to a literal fortress America. If the claim of the comment is merely that the wall doesn’t totally resolve things, then it’s hard to understand his support for many other purchases for border security, since none of those things utterly resolve the issue either. They all just help.

    • #29
    • December 30, 2015 at 8:46 am
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  30. Moderator
    James Of England Post author

    Tom Riehl:Until we secure our border, all discussions like this amount to navel gazing. It really doesn’t matter what Teddy did. A nation without a border is a contradiction in terms.

    Can you name a gentile nation that exists and is not an island? I’m not sure what sort of level of security you’d consider a success.

    In terms of definitions, it would seem to matter a little what Teddy did. I mean, if you believe that Teddy’s borders rendered America not a nation, then I should try to evaluate your claim. If you’re right, then I should work to prevent those I love from perjuring themselves every time they pledge their allegiance.

    If your definition is temporally bounded, then I guess it wouldn’t make much difference what Teddy did, but I’d be surprised if the standard definition of “nation” had changed radically in the recent past.

    • #30
    • December 30, 2015 at 8:52 am
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