The House and Senate majority leadership is playing a shell game. Conferees from both chambers are dwelling exclusively on law enforcement and border security.
Sponsors of the legislation want to build 700 miles of fence on the U.S.-Mexico border and substantially beef up border patrols and detention facilities. Yet don't ask these enforcement advocates about paying the bill. As Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas noted this week, "It's clearly a case of over-promising" because failure to appropriate the money "has been our track record.
"A "security" fence would cost at least $5 billion, Homeland Security officials estimate. That doesn't include expanded patrols and detention centers. Neither does it include the $11 billion it would cost to implement a new law tightening rules on driver's licenses to prevent illegal immigrants from getting them.
Eager to make at least some pre-election progress, House and Senate GOP leaders are trying to attach their enforcement-only approach to a funding bill for the Homeland Security department. Money originally intended for national security would be spent on get-tough-on-immigrants programs.
As a result, there would be less appropriated for security at ports, chemical plants and nuclear-powered electric generating facilities. "We need to make sure we don't have a shell game," said Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, a sponsor of the border fence project.
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