Illegal Immigration: Passion Vs. Reason

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This is a hot topic evoking animated emotions on both sides of the illegal immigration debate. But if passions rule the day, the fix will in fact, fix nothing. The solutions will be short-sighted, largely ineffective, and horrendously costly. Reason must rule this debate. Three achievable goals must define an effective solution. The solution must be effective, enduring, and cost effective.

Signs of protesters to the Minuteman's demonstration yesterday read: Sovereignty is Racism. One opposing sign read, Death to Invaders. These are the passions that are governing the citizen's debate. But these passions should be excluded from our lawmakers debate. Lawmakers duty on illegal immigration is clear. Provide a solution that will halt virtually all illegal immigration. Provide a solution that will be sustainable and permanent. Provide a solution which is cost effective to the tax payers.

Jim Gilchrist, founder of the Minuteman Project, was on C-Span's Washington Journal this morning outlining his thoughts on what should be done. He said he wanted to see a 500% increase in federal funding for the Border Patrol Enforcement putting many thousands of agents on guard at our borders. And he called for a 500% increase in ICE, Immigration & Customs Enforcement to process and remove illegal immigrants and persons who have overextended their visas.

While Mr. Gilchrist's intentions are laudable, his solution is of the worst kind. First, current border patrol staffing is a bit over 11,000 personnel. Let's assume that 9,500 of those are actually involved in patrolling the border (the remainder being clerical and support staff). Now to effectively patrol the borders both North and South, some 5,500 miles of border 24 hours a day, one must divide the 9500 border patrolling officers by 3 to obtain how many officers are patrolling on any given 8 hour shift. 9500 divided by 3 equal 3,166 agents patrolling 5,500 miles. Which breaks out to one agent per 1 and 3/4 miles of border.

Since one agent is unable to apprehend and process a group of illegals numbering anywhere from a dozen to 100 or more, the 3,166 agents is woefully inadquate for the job of effective deterrence. Let's say Mr. Gilchrist gets his wish and we increase that 3,166 agents per shift 500%. That is 15,830 agents. That would put 5 agents per 1 and 3/4 miles of border. When groups of 100 cross over, these numbers are still inadequate to apprehend and process all in the illegal group who will scatter and some number will actually disappear into the United States. Even if that were acceptable in terms of deterring say 80% of the illegals from successfully crossing the border, this measure is horrendously cost inefficient.

The OMB (Office of Manangement and Budget) reports: "Funding for the Border Patrol in 2006 includes $37 million for 210 additional Border Patrol agents..." That's right, adding 210 agents costs $37 million dollars per year, or, $176,190.47 per border patrol agent. Now if Gilchrist's proposal is followed, a 500% increase in border patrol agents would mean adding 38,000 additional border agents. Additional annual cost, $6,695,220,000. More than 6.5 Billion dollars annually. Combined with the current budget of 6.7 billion, this would bring the Customs and Border Patrol annual cost to 13.4 Billion Dollars annually.

The Fence. Rep. Duncan Hunter's (R) spokesman, Joe Kasper said that there is no official government estimate on the cost of the fence, but that it would probably be about $1 million per mile or roughly $2 billion total. Others estimate the price much higher at around $8 billion. The higher estimate is for a more durable and sophisticated border barrier which could achieve between 95 and 99% effective deterrence. These estimates are for the Southern Border only.

Comparison. Increase border patrol 500% at an annual cost of 13.4 Billion per year with only an 80% effective deterrence or a physical barrier with a one time cost of between 8 and 16 Billion depending on Southern only, or Southern and Northern border perimiters with between 95 and 99% effective deterrence. Hands down, the border barrier is by far the more cost effective. And it would achieve a higher rate or deterrence and illegal immigration prevention. Finally, the border perimiter would be safer for our Border Patrol who would encounter armed smugglers at a much lower rate.

One final note. Manning our borders has one other huge weakness. At anytime that personnel reductions take place, as during budget cuts in a recession, a commensurate increase in illegal immigration will result. The physical barrier is the solution that keeps on giving even in times of budget cuts, for once erected, only modest maintenance costs are required to keep it at top efficiency.

Some argue that the Fence idea is not aesthetic and harkens to the Berlin Wall or Great Wall of China which would define America as a harsh and cruel nation. I ask you, does it matter whether a far more cost effective fence erected on our border is less aesthetic than armed forces lining the border as the Chinese have done along the China Russian border in times past? Such emotional appeals are designed to misdirect opinion away from the goal, an effective, enduring, and cost effective end to illegal immigration. Those who don't really want to see an end to illegal immigration will use such impassioned pleas about aesthetics or Cold War barriers. Our Congress has an obligation to legislate with reason and seek a solution which is effective, enduring, and cost effective for the tax payers.


For the country which is established by the immigrants it is so cruel to deport even a single immigrant.After all everybody in America except the red indians are son of immigrant,what is the difference between the actual Americans and what you call 'immigrant' is only time. The first ones came early the second one come late may be to late. WE CANT SEE OTHER DIFFERENCE!! So if America deport any immigrant it means it betrayed its trust!!

HENOK, by your statements then, you would approve of al-Queda and the Taliban immigrating to our nation. Some already have. Your comment indicates you want them to stay. I find tremendous flaw in your argument.

I am all for legal immigration. To open our borders to 100's of millions who want to come here, would be the most monumental disaster our nation ever faced.

It is time to send them all home, we have given amnesty in the past and they still come acrsos our boarders. Send them all back home and tell them there are legitimate channels to come to the United States of America and if they come any way but through the proper channels they will be sent back home once again.I know that there are some businesses that think they have to have illegal immigrants to sustain their businesses and the Republicans are listening to them, I also know that the Democrats are thinking if they are given amnesty once again that they will surely vote for them in the next election cycle.I really do not care what the political reasons are for wanting to give amnesty, I just think they should all be sent home and told that there is only one way to come to this country and that is through a illegal avenue. Put up a fence and shoot to defend the boarder. Provide worker visas if needed but keep track of the people that have received these visas. Make sure they are paying taxes on the money they earn as well as the employers are paying their share of taxes and health care. There are already laws on the books; they just need to be enforced. If the employers are hiring illegal’s then shut down their plants until such time they comply with the laws and send anyone with phony papers back to where they came.

Great point, Juana, about the laws on the books not being enforced to the fullest extent. America is nothing if not a nation governed by the rule of law, and the rule of law is meaningless, in Constitutional terms, if they are not enforced, or worse, arbitrarily enforced for some, and not others.

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This page contains a single entry by David R. Remer published on May 13, 2006 8:46 AM.

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