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The Costs of Border Security

Texas will spend $800 million on border security over the next two years. Is the splurge worth it?

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On Sunday night, after the Dallas Cowboys failed to intervene during an 80-yard pass that resulted in a game-winning touchdown for the New Orleans Saints, Greg Abbott vented his frustration by joking on Twitter:

I thought it was funny. And my appreciation only deepened after the backlash led me to look at the joke with a more critical eye. Abbott was hardly the only Cowboys fan who took solace in humor that night, and his joke works on several levels. It’s a joke about the team’s errant defense. It’s also a joke about the federal government—Texans can disagree about whether the southern border is sufficiently secure, but since it is an international border, the question is one that largely falls to the federal government.

And it’s also a joke about politics (hence the backlash, no doubt). Many Democrats felt that the Abbott’s tweet was brazenly glib, even maliciously flippant. The governor has championed Texas’s ongoing and expensive border security plan, and campaigned on a generally strict approach to that problem and the closely related issue of illegal immigration—and yet there he is on Twitter, clowning around about something that wants us all to take seriously when it suits his purposes. I think this is an overwrought interpretation; as long as we’re overthinking the joke, I think you could also read the line as a poke at a particular subset of the Republican base, one that clearly deserves to be satirized.

With that said, Abbott’s critics are also making a worthwhile point: political rhetoric can have costly consequences. And the imbroglio reminded me that I was meaning to address the Texas Lyceum poll’s findings related to border security and illegal immigration. As I mentioned last week, the results related to those subjects struck me as odd and internally contradictory. The Lyceum pollsters once again found that in the public’s opinion, at least, “immigration” is the most important issue facing the state of Texas. In response to an open-ended question, 24 percent of respondents volunteered that answer; an additional 5 percent offered “border security.” Similarly, 42 percent of respondents said that they “strongly support” the state’s plan to spend $800 million on the border security surge over the next two years.

Those results would give the impression that Texans are highly concerned about immigration and the border. But other results, from the same poll, suggest a more sanguine attitude. When respondents were asked to name the most important issue facing the nation as a whole, “the economy” took the top spot; only 10 percent offered “immigration.” Two-thirds of respondents—including a majority of those who identified as Republicans—expressed support for the federal government’s current approach to immigration enforcement, under which unauthorized immigrants who attend college or serve in the military are eligible for renewable work permits, and are exempted from deportation. In fact, 42 percent of respondents “strongly support” that policy. And almost half of respondents went on to say that the policy provides at least some incentive for people to illegally enter the country. As for the border security surge that so many Texans “strongly” support? Only 14 percent expect it to be “highly effective.”

Now, this is just one poll we’re looking at, and the Texas Lyceum’s goal is to gauge Texan public opinion on a variety of issues, so we can’t consider this the definitive account of how Texans think about border security and illegal immigration. But what I see in these results is a certain disjunct between how Texans feel about these issues, and how they perceive statewide public opinion more generally—a disconnect that can be attributed to political rhetoric. Is the border secure? Since we still haven’t defined “security” in this context, that’s a somewhat subjective question. But in Texas, at least, I think we can safely say that the southern border is more secure than it was a year ago. In the summer of 2014, as we all probably remember, the Rio Grande Valley sector was experiencing a surge of unauthorized migration from Central America. This was a legitimately anomalous situation and one that had real implications for security, although the scared and dispossessed children themselves were, of course, among the least menacing people imaginable. The surge in unauthorized migration, however, has since subsided.

What hasn’t changed is the amount of overheated political rhetoric the general public is hearing from its political leaders. In Texas, at least, the rhetoric has actually become louder and more abundant. Border security and illegal immigration have been hot topics in the state since last year’s Republican primaries, mostly thanks to Dan Patrick, and hot topics in national politics since this summer, mostly thanks to Donald Trump. Meanwhile, as Paul Brown pointed out on Capital Tonight last week, Texans may be less cynical about politicians than one would think; another striking result from this year’s Lyceum poll is that a majority of Texans approve of how Abbott is doing his job as governor, and a majority of Texans also approve of how Obama is doing his job as president.

And that, I think, helps explain why two-thirds of Texans would express support for an $800 million border security plan, even though only a handful have high hopes for it. As a number of Democratic legislators have pointed out, it’s not even clear how the state plans to spend the money. The Lyceum poll offers a few more pieces of evidence that Texans, as opposed to the subset of Texans who are extremely vocal on social media, haven’t succumbed en masse to alarmism. At the same time, after a solid eighteen months of sturm und drang, it’s not really that surprising that the general public would have the impression that border security and immigration are real problems for Texas.

The result, though, is potentially self-perpetuating: if Texans are telling pollsters that immigration and border security are among the most important issues facing the state, they’re creating further incentive for political leaders to treat those issues as such. The state’s scarce resources aren’t the only thing at stake. It would be a real shame if Texas lawmakers in 2017 repeal the Texas DREAM Act or ban “sanctuary” policies, in my view, and it’s a safe bet that they’re going to try.

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  • Indiana Pearl

    Texans love them some illegals. It’s a dirty little secret.

    Forget the border, if you’re serious, and concentrate on E-Verify.

    • gordo

      Maybe we oughta take a big chunk of that money and station DPS officers at every airport to put an RFID chip in every person who comes here from overseas, since some 40% of illegals in America come here on legit visas but overstay. Works for stray dogs.

      • WUSRPH

        Sorry…I did not think something I entered over on DISCUS would show up here. But it did. So I deleted it..

        • Indiana Pearl

          You may want to check again. Your post is showing up both on BB and Disqus.

          • WUSRPH

            This was an attempt to explain why anything from me appeared, when it should not. I removed the message that I had tried to post directly on his DISCUS that I originally thought would not show up here. Sorry for the mistake. I will not make it again. You guys have fun.

          • oh come on most of the fun is poking fun at you….

          • Unwound

            its nothing compared to getting a rise out of you.

          • I understand that you have such low esteem that you crave attention from me even if it is a put down.
            I tell you what I’ll do, I’ll ax Burka blog to give a ribbon to everyone that shows up everyday.
            But in order to get your free ribbon for showing up you have to leave for at least an hour every day.

          • Unwound

            No deal. This is too much fun

          • Indiana Pearl

            I’ll leave if you’ll leave.

            But you won’t. It’s the only Texas publication that allows you to shoot your mouth off.

          • Indiana Pearl

            Most of us miss you!

      • TopTaciturn

        @gordo you are one big fool. Your brain must be ‘gordo’ too.

    • TopTaciturn

      The “Dirty little secret” you expose goes further than TX. Dole and other companies, initially had the POTUS (and Congress) back in ’42, bring in 4.2 million Mexicans. Now they want to build a wall.
      http://braceroarchive.org/teaching

      • Indiana Pearl

        Was it that recent?

        • TopTaciturn

          @disqus_XIWKekO6YU:disqus YEP. How time flies.

          • Indiana Pearl

            Thanks! I’m an outlander from the midwest.

      • The democrats brought in slaves before that and now you’re saying dems did it again in ’42?

        • Unwound

          Conservatives did that. Their remnants have now run into the republican parties open arms.

          • Indiana Pearl

            Old Dems = Today’s GOP

  • enp1955

    I wonder what would happen if we spent $800M on the demand side? Raiding companies that hire illegal workers, fining the businesses, convicting and incarcerating the owners? I’m guessing that the word would get out VERY quickly with demand for illegal workers going down dramatically. Border security would become much easier if the word got out that those crossing wouldn’t find work.

    • donuthin2

      Oh, but we could never do that. How would we get our yards mowed, highways constructed, homes built, crops harvested? We’ve never been serious about stopping illegal immigration as it affects too many with influence.

      • Indiana Pearl

        Don’t forget the chickens. Illegals are heavily employed in the meat business.

    • southtpa

      it wouldn’t cost that much. it’s a pretty simple process. whatever the cost it is cheaper than keeping them

  • There is one reason and one reason only there are illegals in the US, dems need themselves so new voters. Everyone with smarts is leaving the party in droves.

    • Indiana Pearl

      I guess you’ve never registered to vote in Texas. Or do you believe illegals all have access to professional forging operations?

      • I have the time or the inclination to educate you. Ask wikipedia….

        • Indiana Pearl

          National Review? Not exactly unbiased . . . Where do the illegals get the documents needed to register?

          • Indiana Pearl

            This study is “. . . fraught with substantial uncertainty.”

            Booksie will believe anything that supports his world view.

            http://mediamatters.org/research/2014/10/28/what-other-academics-think-of-the-questionable/201347

          • Hay I just furnish the facts. I ain’t responsible for for helping those afflicted with liberalism understand them.
            What do you think I can perform miracles?

          • Indiana Pearl
          • Indiana Pearl

            I never open your posts. Hahaha . . .

          • I know because you don’t know how….hahah

          • Indiana Pearl

            ABBOTT: “Every day I go to the office and sue Obama.”

            PEARL: “Every day I go to my computer and make a fool of Booksie.”

            Hahaha . . .

          • In your fantasies…hahaha

          • Indiana Pearl

            I’m batting 1.000 so far. Go Cubs!

          • Unwound

            man, award winning material here

          • have you read yours?

          • Unwound

            Of course. I read everything before I hit “post”

          • Indiana Pearl

            Yeah.

          • Salon? hahah

          • Indiana Pearl

            I calls ’em as I sees ’em, Booksie.

            And I’m not above fat shaming for a high moral purpose . . .

          • Unwound

            buckley also realized afterwards that he lost that exchange because he allowed vidal to goad him into losing his temper. kind of like someone else around here……

          • He stood up to the “queer” and told him I will knock you into next week” just like I do to you.
            and no it really isn’t that hard.

          • Unwound

            Funny, Buckley was pretty embarrassed by the whole thing afterwards. He actually knew shame.

          • Can democrats know shame? hahaha

          • Unwound

            a negligible amount, but considering trump and carson are topping the polls id say thats still significantly more than the GOP

          • Wha….? Heard of the lying deceitful Hillary or plagiarizing Joe or…geez why do I have to explain every comment?

          • Unwound

            I’ll take them over the wannabe war criminals and incompetents you’ve got.

          • Ron Kabele

            “He stood up to the queer”…
            Not sure what you mean.

          • “Not sure what you mean.”
            sadly, I believe you.

          • Indiana Pearl

            He hates gay people.

          • Indiana Pearl

            Random comment deletes by TM . . .

          • Indiana Pearl

            Homophobia is an indicator of latent homosexuality:

            http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/assault/roots/freud.html

          • hahaha….
            1. racist
            2. misogynist
            3. Homophobic
            repeat when you have nothing to say

            I’ve been noticing your comments tend to lean toward anti men how long have you been a misandrist?

          • Unwound

            it should also be pointed out that buckley was defending the policies of daley and johnson, both liberal democrats.

          • How does someone so unintelligent as you survive?

          • Unwound

            by my wits and hard work, just like everyone else.

            he was backing the vietnam war and cops beating protestors, both put into force by dems.

          • “by my wits and hard work”? You’re a slacker who spends his day on multi blogs posting gibberish. Are you actually you’re getting paid to do this?

          • Indiana Pearl

            So are you.

          • liar……what is that makes dems such liars?

          • Indiana Pearl

            Facts? No, just bagger propaganda.

          • southtpa

            I’ve seen a guy setup at a flea market selling whatever documents you may want. I guess you can imagine what the line looked like

          • Indiana Pearl

            Where?

          • Indiana Pearl

            Crickets . . .

        • Unwound

          if this was, yknow, actually true, abbott and paxton would be having a field day with it.

          • Indiana Pearl

            If it was true, Texas would be a blue state.

          • Seriously, how would you know?

          • Unwound

            know what? that paxton and abbott would take any opportunity to prosecute fraud that would give their party an edge? havent dug much of that up have they?

          • anything…

    • gordo

      Same. tired. old. rationale. Please get a new one. Here in the left end of Texas, the undocumented looking for work move on, mostly, except in the same low skilled trades cited above. I guarandamntee you won’t see any blonde, anglo roofers in July in El Paso.

      • Obviously you have trouble understanding one reason and one reason only.

        • Unwound

          or you have a serious problem with facts.

          • Food for thought, you do not have to comment on every single one of my comments. Especially from someone who has so little to say. . .

          • Unwound

            No, but then its worth it to watch you lose your cool and post stuff like this.

          • making fun of you isn’t losing my cool, its merely making fun of the less than bright…

          • Unwound

            Lately you’ve spent more of your time reacting to me and less making fun of anyone. And that’s kind of the idea here.

          • Indiana Pearl

            Yesssss!

  • Jay Trainor

    The Lyceum Poll shows Texans have a long way to go before ending prejudiced beliefs in this state.

  • Happy happy happy….hahaha

    • Unwound

      dadhumor

      • food for thought, you do not have to comment on every single one of my comments. Especially from someone who has so little to say.

        • Indiana Pearl

          You do not have to post 24/7.

          Quality, not quantity.

          • Indiana Pearl

            You posted the same comment twice in fifteen minutes.

          • why are you counting my comments? Do you have a report to fill out and send to the DNC?

          • Indiana Pearl

            Because I enjoy exposing your foolishness . . .

          • so you can’t comprehend how childish you look by doing so?

          • You still get it, you don’t get to decide when I post or take a leak.

  • TopTaciturn

    “Texas will spend $800 million on border security over the next two years. Is the splurge worth it?
    Tax payers from all 50 pay $25 mil per week to run Congress. Is THAT worth it?

  • Unwound
  • I say lets build the fence and put democrats on the other side…..solves everything. Oh no don’t thank me.

    • Indiana Pearl

      Dems will stay on the US side. You’ll stay on the other.

    • Unwound

      youre why the GOP is losing the current younger generation of voters.

      • Or is it because of voters like you, who have been dumbed down by the education system?

        • Unwound

          An education system that was designed by people like yourself.

  • John Johnson

    Illegals are still coming because we do not enforce employment verification laws. That’s like having a 2′ high split rail fence around a candy store with the door left wide open all night. Either build a substantial fence, or simply close and lock the door. Which seems the best choice? We do neither; we do basically nothing.

    • Indiana Pearl

      I agree, but the reason the laws are not enforced is because Big Bidness wants it that way.

    • Unwound

      Jbb says its because dems want them to vote. Who is right?

      • Indiana Pearl

        Heard a report recently that said that the state of Texas was able to prove voter fraud using false ID in only about ten cases in the last TEN YEARS!

      • John Johnson

        Both. Repub business owners want them here; Dem’s want them here for votes and because they “feel” for them and want to help them. They also want everyone to cover the expense of having them here…and it does cost us. As the poll suggests, however, even half of the Hispanic Texan’s want the issue resolved.

        • Unwound

          illegal aliens cant vote. if theres widespread voter fraud by them, im pretty sure that it would have been prosecuted by abbott and costello. (sorry, i meant paxton)

          • John Johnson

            Oh, they eventually will if Dem’s get their way.

          • Unwound

            this is even dumber than the drivel that chuck posts.

          • John Johnson

            🙂

          • Indiana Pearl

            “Eventually” is a long way off.

  • Indiana Pearl

    Another test of the censors:

    Homophobia

    “Homophobia”

    Homosexual

    “Homosexual”

  • borgerboy

    ” a majority of Texans also approve of how Obama is doing his job as president”. Statement from the article and I can’t believe the author actually used it. NO ONE I know has any thought that obola is doing his job. After all, look how many voted for him in both elections.