Today, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) took to the Senate floor to slam an amendment to the $58.8 billion emergency supplemental bill proposed by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) that would’ve required $2.2 billion in unspent stimulus funds be poured into securing the border. Though the amendment failed to meet the needed 60 votes and was defeated this morning, Republicans unanimously supported it. Before it was voted down, Schumer delivered a damning speech, chiding voices who claim to support “jobs” and “fiscal moderation” for “throwing caution to the wind” by supporting a “symbolic amendment”:
It’s $2.2 billion, it puts money in just about every program — needed or not. And then it takes that money out of the stimulus — the Recovery Act — takes it away from jobs. […] For all of the voices on both sides of the aisle which have talked about jobs and all of the voices that have talked about fiscal moderation, to throw caution to the winds, to put $2.2 billion into programs whether they are needed or not — makes no sense at all.
We must stop illegal immigration as it comes across the border. This will not do it. You know it. And I know it. This is what’s called a symbolic amendment to show where you stand in many ways. And it’s $2.2 billion dollars. We can find amendments that will do the job, that cost a lot less, and will not take away jobs that we want to create and preserve in the entire country.
Wonk Room reported earlier this week that spending on immigration enforcement, particular border enforcement, has steadily climbed since 2002 and continues to rise under the Obama administration from about $9 billion in 2008 to over $11 billion in 2010. Overall, the U.S. will spend over $17 billion in FY 2010 just on enforcing immigration laws. However, enforcement without broader reform that doesn’t address the nation’s outdated visa system and does nothing about the 12 million undocumented immigrants already living in the U.S. doesn’t really fix the problem.
Republicans, meanwhile, continue pounding on border security — despite the fact that the border is safer than it has been in years and irrespective of the controversial actions President Obama took this week when he deployed 1,200 National Guard troops to the border and requested $500 million in supplementary funds for border security. Earlier today, the Senate also defeated an amendment proposed by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) that would have sent 6,000 National Guardsmen to the southern border and a separate amendment proposed by Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) that would’ve thrown more money at Operation Streamline, a “zero tolerance” border enforcement program that has been found to “divert scarce resources from core law enforcement priorities and community safety, and strain U.S. courts.”