The question of the border fence

imgresAs immigration has moved to the center of political debate, the fate of possible citizenship for millions of people hinges on a bolstered southern border.

“We put more boots on the ground on the southern border than at any time in our history,” President Obama exclaimed this week, adding that illegal crossings are down 80% since their peak in 2000.

The president committed a small army to the southwestern states–over 21,000 border patrol agents–racking up an almost $11.7 billion price tag in 2012, up $362 million allotted for the year before, reports MCNBC.  “According to the Migration Policy Institute, the federal government spent a total of $18 billion on immigration enforcement agencies, which accounted for an astounding 24% more in federal spending than what was given for the FBI, DEA, Secret Service, U.S. Marshals Service, and ATF–combined.

“And as the number of agents and resources allocated to the border rose, the number of arrests and apprehensions along the country lines plummeted. Meanwhile, deportation rates skyrocketed under Obama’s first term, setting record after record for each year he was in office, with the 2012 tally at 409,849 deportations. By comparison, President George W. Bush deported just under 370,000 people in 2008.

“The hefty price-tag on enforcement costs comes with an equally surmountable human cost that has shifted in the past ten years, author Rubén Martinez argued on Up w/ Chris Hayes Saturday. ‘Certainly the drug war has made it a scarier and darker place, but also the insecurity that has been brought to the border in the name of security,’ Martinez said. The lag in border-crossings from Mexico to the United States, Martinez argued, has less to do with the heightened presence of Border Patrol agents, and more with the state of the America’s recovering economy.

Skeptics, however, say no matter how high the border fence walls stand–both physically and symbolically–nothing will stem the flow of immigrants entering the country. ‘From a conservative perspective, what they see is 11 million people eventually becoming citizens, and the magnet is still there,’ said former state Rep. Aaron Peña, who founded the Hispanic Republican Conference of Texas. ‘It’s never going to stop, we’re still going to have people coming.’”


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