I’ve written about border security previously here at FrumForum and I’m not going to pretend that border security issues are simple ones. They tie into everything from labor economics to drug policy to civil liberties issues, and reasonable people can debate any number of matters relating to border security. One thing seems clear, however. Policing the border is an expensive business and it is a necessity even in tough budgetary times.
That’s why this story is so disconcerting. I fully realize that in the current budget situation, nothing can be taken off the table. I also know there is horse-trading in the budget process, so proposals that come up early in the process aren’t necessarily what the sponsors really want or expect to be in the final budget. That having been said, details like this raise concerns:
The House voted mostly along party lines over the weekend to slash spending by an estimated $600 million for border security and immigration enforcement for the remainder of this fiscal year. The budget allocates $350 million less for border security fencing, infrastructure and technology than Congress approved last year, and $124 million below what the Department of Homeland Security requested. The bill also cuts an estimated $159 million over last year for Customs and Border Protection modernization and construction programs, and is $40 million less than the agency sought to get the job done.
While it appears that illegal immigration declined at least for a time during the current economic downturn, the drug cartel warfare in Mexico has worsened. For example, over 50 people were killed in Ciudad Juarez during one recent weekend. Violence has spread to areas far from the border like Acapulco and Guadalajara, and in a particularly brazen act, two American Immigration and Custom Enforcement agents were shot recently in Mexico. One of them, Special Agent Jaime Zapata, died in the line of duty.
House Republicans have talked tough about the need for more border security, but they don’t seem to be backing up that rhetoric with financial support. It’s easy to simply complain about the situation in Mexico and on the border, but it takes real work to try and improve the situation. That work doesn’t come for free. While it is true that no aspect of the federal government should consider itself to be immune from budgetary review, it is also true that one can be pennywise and pound-foolish with respect to cutting budgets for necessary services. Cutting border security funding is one example of such a short-sighted approach.