Senate OK’s $600 Million for Still More Border Security

The new bill supports extra border patrol agents and aerial drones.

By Julianne Hing Aug 06, 2010

That was fast. New York Senator Chuck Schumer together with Missouri’s Claire McCaskill successfully introduced and passed a $600 million border security bill in one day. CNN reports that last night the Senate approved by voice vote an extra 1,500 enforcement agents; $32 million in unmanned aerial drones, and $15 million for communication equipment at the border.

McCaskill praised the new military toys they’ll be sending to the border:

A lot of people now think of drones in the way that they’ve been used in Pakistan in taking out Al Qaeda, but primary to the drones is their ability to get real-time surveillance. So imagine the advantage of getting real-time surveillance above the airspace where we have some lawlessness going on and what that could do to assist the people on the ground of manning up where they need to man up in terms of resources at the border.

The bill’s passage comes on the heels of an extra $701 million that the House approved last week for similar militarization measures at the border. The House vote came the night before an Arizona judge blocked controversial provisions in SB 1070, that state’s harsh anti-immigrant bill.

Around the country, there are oft-quoted figures that SB 1070 has broad support. But, less well-known is the fact that the same people who support 1070 also support legalization measures for the estimated 10-11 million undocumented immigrants who live in the country. A full 81 percent of those polled in a July poll by CNN said they would support "creating a program that would allow illegal immigrants already living in the United States for a number of years to stay here and apply to legally remain in this country permanently if they had a job and paid back taxes."

CNN reports that the Obama administration signaled its approval last night of the new funds. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano praised the bill’s passage: "These assets are critical to bringing additional capabilities to crack down on transnational criminal organizations and reduce the illicit trafficking of people, drugs, currency and weapons." 

The Obama administration continues to maintain the line that stricter border enforcement is targeted at criminals and drug traffickers. However the majority of people who get arrested and prosecuted at the border innocent, unarmed migrants; the administration can’t resist conflating immigrants with criminals.

Lawmakers have suggested that now that both the House and the Senate–and don’t forget the president–have supported bolstered border security, Republicans will be more willing to cooperate to get comprehensive immigration bill passed. The rebranded immigration hawk John McCain said about the Senate’s $600 million boost: "Although there is a great deal more to be done, I believe today Democrats finally put good policy over politics and agreed we must secure our border first." Even if the goal of a "secure border" is both an impossible notion and an unworthy goal. But especially where immigration restrictionists are concerned, no amount of border security will ever be enough.