by Jim Nintzel
Sen. John McCain says the new border-security requirements in immigration-reform package that's set to pass the Senate this week as "well over-sufficient" and promises the U.S.-Mexico border will be "the most militarized border since the fall of the Berlin Wall."
McCain's comments come one day after 67 senators approved a "border surge" amendment to the Gang of Eight's legislation. The new proposal includes nearly 20,000 new Border Patrol agents—essentially doubling the current force—and funding for another 700 miles of fencing.
McCain himself expressed a bit of skepticism over the additional funding, which was included in an amendment from Republican John Hoeven of North Dakota and Democrat Bob Corker of Tennessee.
“Is it more than I would have recommended? Honestly, yes,” said McCain, who was one of the original Gang of Eight drafters of the bill. “But we've got to give people confidence. And by the way, if there's anyone who still will argue that the border's not secure after this, then border security is not their reason for opposing a path to citizenship for the people who are in this country illegally.”
As if on cue, McCain’s old pal, Sarah Palin, announced Sunday via Facebook that she remained opposed to the legislation , calling it a “pandering, rewarding-the-rule-breakers, still-no-border-security, special-interests-ridden, 24-lb disaster of a bill.”
Palin—who is essentially functioning as the id of the GOP conservatives—added that the bill “offers no solutions. It will barely slow the flow of illegal immigration, which means we can expect millions and millions of new illegal aliens in coming years.”
But the promise of the big surge was enough to flip Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer from a skeptic of the bill to a supporter.
Brewer told Fox News on Monday that she was “claiming victory for Arizona in regards to the border surge. I was writing to the federal government and to Sen. Schumer way back in June of 2010 in regards to the border surge that we needed to see completed before we moved forward.”
Plenty of the critics of the legislation remain. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who voted against ending debate on the immigration bill earlier this week, said he didn’t believe the bill would lead to a secure border.
“Despite the hard work and best efforts of our colleagues, I remain concerned that when it comes to the threshold question of border security, today’s assurances may well become tomorrow’s disappointments,” the Kentucky Republican said in a statement to the press. “And that’s to say nothing of the process that got us here. When I called for a debate on immigration earlier this month, a massive bill, pushed up against an artificial deadline, without any real opportunity for review or amendment isn’t what I had in mind.”
Vermont Democrat Pat Leahy said he would vote for the amended bill, but called it “a disappointment to me and to many” because it had become “a potential recipe for waste, fraud and abuse.”
“The modification to my amendment reads like a Christmas wish list for Halliburton,” Leahy said in a press release. “I am sure there are federal contracting firms high-fiving at the prospect of all of the spending demanded by Senate Republicans in this amendment. The litany of expensive services, technology, and hardware mandated by this package is combined with an inexplicable waiver of many normal contracting rules.”
Leahy is not the only one to see the expanded border buildup as ridiculous overkill and a colossal waste of money. Some wonder if how the Border Patrol will be able to train and supply an extra 18,000 agents—not to mention questioning what all those agents are going to be doing out in the desert. Others say it will make the border region look like a war zone.
Locally, Border Action Network Executive Director Juanita Molina called the legislation “a disproportionate response to the risk posed by economic migrants.”
“Not only does this affect our everyday freedoms, it creates an occupied state that undermines the public trust in law enforcement and governmental institutions,” Molina said in a prepared statement.
But Sen. Jeff Flake, who was one of the original Gang of Eight sponsors, celebrated the border surge.
“In addition to doubling the number of Border Patrol agents and doubling the miles of border protected by fencing, the Hoeven-Corker amendment adds a firm trigger by requiring strong enforcement elements to be completed before anyone adjusts from provisional to permanent status,” Flake said via press release. “I’m proud to support this amendment, and urge its passage.”