Last week, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) said that President Barack Obama “thinks Americans are stupid” for trying to “convince” voters that Republicans are trying to obstruct financial reform. It turns out that DeMint is the one who is insulting the intelligence of the American people by suggesting that Republicans aren’t pulling every stop to try to derail a bill that has receivedwidespread public support.
Today, DeMint announced that he will attach an amendment to the financial reform bill requiring the completion of 700 miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border within one year. DeMint justified introducing an amendment that has nothing to do with financial regulation by stating that “It’s time we completed the fence and secured our borders to protect American citizens.”
This isn’t the first time DeMint has brought up the border fence to drive a wedge into a bill that he doesn’t like. Last summer, DeMint joined a group of Republican senators who swamped the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) $42.9 billion appropriations bill with a series of immigration enforcement-only amendments. DeMint’s latest amendment is virtually identical to the one he proposed in July. Despite the fact that it was approved, DeMint’s DHS amendment was stripped from the final bill last summer after seven border state congressmen asked the House leadership to do so.
Research has found that the border fence is more successful at keeping undocumented immigrants in the U.S. than in persuading them to not come in the first place. U.S. government investigators have additionally indicated that it will cost taxpayers $6.5 billionover the next 20 years to maintain the fencing already in place and the Congressional Research Service estimated in 2007 that building and maintaining a double set of steel fences along 700 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border would add up to $49 billion over the expected 25-year life span of the fence.
The reason the border fence hasn’t been completed is because DHS officials believe those billions of dollars would be better spent on more effective security measures. Instead, DHS has doubled both the number of personnel assigned to Border Enforcement Security Task Forces and border patrol agents; tripled the number of ICE intelligence analysts working along the U.S.-Mexico border; quadrupled deployments of border liaison officers; begun screening all southbound rail shipments for illegal weapons, drugs and cash, and employed additional canine teams. As a result, DHS has succeeded in seizing thousands of firearms, millions of kilograms of drugs, and millions of dollars in illicit cash. Though the drop in illegal immigration since Obama took office is largely attributable to the economic recession, the role DHS has played is hardly insignificant.
Democrats have put forth a framework for comprehensive immigration reform which stipulates a series of tough benchmarks that “must be met before action can be taken to adjust the status of people already in the United States illegally.” However, rather than working with Democrats to secure the border and reform the nation’s immigration laws, Republicans like DeMint conveniently prefer to deal with border security via financial regulatory reform.
Crossposted with permission from the Wonk Room.