Meanwhile, at Texas Monthly Nate Blakeslee dissected the performance of a Lone State State politician charting a different course: Sen. Ted Cruz, who broke with a long tradition of statewide Republicans who have been moderates on immigration to oppose the Senate bill. Why? Presidential ambitions, concludes Blakeslee. He adds:
Ted Cruz, who was born in Canada, and whose father emigrated from Cuba, is not himself a product of that tradition, and he seems, at times, to be espousing positions that are disconnected from the reality that Texans know well. Take, for instance, his complaint that the Gang of Eight proposal doesn’t do enough to secure the border. Of all the misconceptions distorting the current debate over immigration reform, this is the costliest, literally speaking.
Security. That brings us to another rich topic—the endless debate over just how much security is enough along the increasingly militarized U.S.-Mexico border, a subject that offers plenty of opportunities to scrutinize political rhetoric and follow the money. The Austin American-Statesman’s PolitiFact Texas project—which, alongside the main PolitiFact entrerprise, is doing a fine job rating the truthfulness of various politicians’ claims—recently examined President Obama’s boasts about border security.
Other journalists have taken a look at how steady demands for more border security—and reform advocates’ willingness to accede to them—amount to dollar signs for big contractors. The Washington Post’s Matea Gold got behind the $46 billion in border security proposed by the Senate to uncover a wish list of helicopters, drones, databases and more, many being sold by top defense companies making up for lost business over at the Pentagon. San Antonio Express-News columnist O. Ricardo Pimental noted the parallels between the border build-up and Congress’s appetite for even unwanted defense spending, and wryly commented: “There used to be a pejorative for that—profiteering.” And back in May, The Arizona Republic’s Bob Ortega did a good job of examining the consequences of $106 billion in border spending over the past five years. The results? Illegal crossings in the Tucson sector are down over 90 percent, but smuggling—guns headed south and drugs headed north—is actually up.
Oh, and some more context for the security debate: Remember SBINet, an integrated system of sensors, drones, and databases conceived during the 2006 debate, to be managed by Boeing to the tune of $8 billion? Well, it had to be shut down by the Department of Homeland Security in 2011 as a colossal and expensive failure.
Economics. The effect of immigration on wages is a famously controversial subject, but the prevailing view among academic researchers is that new immigration actually boosts real wages for almost everyone—except earlier immigrants. (Here’s Wonkblog’s Dylan Matthews on that issue.) And the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of the Senate bill—rendered in colorful infographic form by the Houston Chronicle—concluded that comprehensive reform would improve the federal government’s finances, even with those security costs accounted for.
Another study, from the left-leaning Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, concluded that legalization of existing unauthorized immigrants will boost state and local tax revenues, particularly in states with no sales taxes. That analysis was written up just this week by U.S. News & World Report’s Lauren Fox, who also cited a critique from the conservative Heritage Foundation.
The view from the other side. Recollections of prior reform debates are valuable, but it’s also important to remember what has changed in the 27 years since Washington last overhauled the law: the economic options facing potential migrants. The Mexican economy is far stronger now than it was in 1986, and it’s keeping more workers at home. (Of course, Mexico is not the only country that sends immigrants to the US.) And the American economy is sluggish, with over 7 percent unemployment, and less of a magnet for immigrants looking for work. Security upgrades on the border, even if not always cost-effective, also factor into the calculus here.