Throwing Good Money After Bad
May 26, 2010
Washington, D.C. - This week, the Senate is considering amendments to the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bill that would add thousands of additional personnel along the border (including the National Guard), as well as provide millions of dollars for detention beds, technology, and resources. Yesterday, bowing to pressure, President Obama announced that he would send 1,200 National Guard troops to the border and request $500 million for additional resources. Some senators are upping the ante, proposing up to $2 billion for this effort. All of this attention on resources for the border, however, continues to ignore the fact that border enforcement alone has never been enough. Throwing money at this problem as the sole means of solving it is not only fiscally irresponsible, but history teaches us it is ineffective.
For more than two decades, the U.S. government has tried without success to stamp out unauthorized immigration through enforcement efforts at the border and in the interior of the country without fundamentally reforming the broken immigration system that spurs unauthorized immigration in the first place. Ironically, while billions upon billions of dollars have been poured into enforcement, the number of unauthorized immigrants in the United States has increased dramatically.
The annual budget of the U.S. Border Patrol stood at $3.0 billion in Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 - a nine-fold increase since FY 1992. The number of Border Patrol agents stationed along the southwest border with Mexico grew to 16,974 in FY 2009 - a nearly five-fold increase since FY 1992.
Yet, the unauthorized-immigrant population of the United States has tripled in size, from roughly 3.5 million in 1990 to 11.9 million in 2008.
The enforcement-only approach to our immigration problems is clearly not yielding the results needed. It is time for Congress and the President to propose comprehensive solutions to the complex problem of our broken immigration system.
For more detailed data on the costs of enforcement:
Throwing Good Money After Bad (IPC Fact Check, May 26, 2010)