If you were worried that the Gang of Eight’s immigration overhaul efforts didn’t sufficiently address border security, then then amendment filed by Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and John Hoeven (R-ND) should put any fears to rest.
Sen. Hoeven last week said his amendment language is “almost overkill.” It’s not almost overkill, it is overkill. But it might be exactly what’s needed for legislation to get passed by the Senate and head to the House of Representatives.
There’s a $30 billion price tag attached to Corker-Hoeven, but if a bill gets to the president’s desk it will still be a bargain, following the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office’s analysis that comprehensive immigration reform will reduce the deficit by $197 billion over the next decade and $700 billion in the next 20 years.
Consider the amendment’s border security provisions:
- Adds another 20,000 agents to the ranks of the Border Patrol.
- Calls for 700 miles of border fencing.
- Deploys to the border technology like cameras and unmanned aerial systems currently used in Iraq and Afghanistan.
All of this is hoped to add up to a 90 percent effectiveness rate in apprehending or preventing illegal crossings.
For a border state like Arizona, which represents only about two percent of the U.S. population but at one point saw as many as 50 percent of illegal crossings into this country take place along our border with Mexico, such a surge of border enforcement resources is unprecedented. With estimates that a border surge would result in a Border Patrol agent every 1,000 feet, Arizona is poised to receive a huge injection of federal dollars and resources.
Just as important are the underlying bill’s effects on the U.S. workforce and economy. The bill creates a new W visa, improves the visa program for agricultural workers and has a raft of other improvements to our visa system that will make it much easier for the needed labor of all skill levels to enter the U.S. legally.
As Tamar Jacoby of the pro-reform group ImmigrationWorks USA has said, if we improve the legal pathways to work in the U.S. we will at the same time also improve border security.
The Wall Street Journal recently editorialized that the Corker-Hoeven amendment should meet the demands of those senators who’ve been clamoring for “border security first” throughout this immigration debate. Frank Sharry, the executive director of another pro-reform group, America’s Voice, said, “If you’ve been saying you want more border security so that you can vote for the bill, and you still don’t vote for this bill, you just have to say that there are other motives (for voting no).”
This entire debate has offered a lesson in political leadership. Big challenges like immigration require big ideas and leaders willing to take a risk. Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake are doing the serious work of the American people. When they succeed, the rewards for Arizona’s economy and security will be immense.
Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry