Congress to Blame for Failings on Border Security

COMMENTARY Immigration

Congress to Blame for Failings on Border Security

Jun 11th, 2018 2 min read
COMMENTARY BY
Tommy Binion

Vice President of Government Relations

Thomas is responsible for Heritage's many programs on Capitol Hill and its engagement with the administration.

Key Takeaways

The United States of America has an entirely insecure border, and that’s a problem.

Illegal immigration is just another example in the long line of congressional failures to address critical problems.

Rather than the constant partisan bickering and campaigning, Congress should focus on addressing these critical problems.

The United States of America has an entirely insecure border, and that’s a problem.

It’s a problem made worse by three salient facts: One is that the border is always under pressure from illegal immigrants seeking the amnesty that the Left is promising to enact. The second is that those illegal immigrants have no trouble getting a job and government benefits once they get here. The third is the unimpeded flow of drugs, guns and human trafficking.

But it’s a problem with a solution.

Modern-day countries all over the globe are able to secure their borders, and if Congress took this problem seriously, we’d have a secure border, too. 

Congress excels at avoiding critical problems, and even exacerbating them. Facing a looming debt crisis, for example, lawmakers enacted a spending bill that balloons that crisis. Or take health care: With premium costs skyrocketing, they failed to deliver on a promise to repeal ObamaCare. And let’s not forget that, despite knowing that entitlements are barreling toward insolvency, Congress has failed to act to reform those programs for decades.

Illegal immigration is just another example in the long line of congressional failures to address critical problems. But the last few weeks have drawn that failure into sharp focus.

Over the last two months, Congress has engaged on a spending binge to end all spending binges. After deciding to bust through the legal spending caps, Congress went all out, spending $1.207 trillion on discretionary spending. That amounts to a $143 billion increase over the now eliminated spending caps. The Homeland Security budget itself went up $5.3 billion (12.4 percent).

With all this money going around, surely Congress allocated a big increase to one of our nation’s most critical problems, right? Not exactly. The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol budget was set for $11.5 billion, up from $11.4 billion last year. That’s it! With all that money flying around, with appropriators looking for places to spend all the money, Congress didn’t see fit to plus up the Border Patrol budget.

Americans recently had to face the news that a caravan of would-be illegal immigrants were headed to the U.S. southern border, followed by the announcement that our military, already stretched thin, would have to be deployed to defend the border.

Had there been a serious congressional effort to secure the border at any time before this, these things could have been avoided. Even if Congress had seen to allocate some of the massive spending increase to border security, the impact of these events probably could have been lessened.

But no. Over the past eight months, when Congress wasn’t negotiating this spending increase, it was debating amnesty for various groups of illegal immigrants. Every single time that amnesty becomes a hot topic in Congress, pressure goes up on the border. That makes perfect sense: many of those who cross the border illegally are drawn by the promise of future amnesty. With more border-crossers, the border is harder to defend. Focus is pulled from drug-smuggling and instead focused on the tens of thousands of people attempting to cross.

By debating amnesty and giving the impression that eventually, every illegal would be welcome to stay, Congress made the border security problem even tougher.

Congress is an extremely unpopular entity. Americans’ dissatisfaction with their representatives is well-documented. In fact, it was a feature of President Trump’s successful campaign for the White House. Rather than the constant partisan bickering and campaigning, Congress should focus on addressing these critical problems. As you can, playing politics only makes them worse.

This piece originally appeared in The Hill on 04/07/18