As lawmakers in Washington are engaged in heavy negotiations surrounding what precisely comprehensive immigration reform will look like, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the costs of this reform will seriously impact what the eventual bill will include.
One thing that nearly all legislators seem to agree on when it comes to crafting an immigration reform bill is that securing the U.S.-Mexico border must be a priority. This means that many are calling for an increased Border Patrol presence in this region, a build-up of surveillance technology, and of course a lengthening and strengthening of the border wall. However, with legislators already intensely struggling to create a balanced national budget, and with up to 40 percent of Border Patrol agents expected to experience furloughs and pay cuts in the near future, it is unclear whether such a build-up in border security is feasible or if it would even be effective.
As the United States continues to funnel money into infrastructure, technology and human patrols of the U.S.-Mexico border, many argue that this money could be better spent. Despite the growing border wall, immigrants still successfully trek northward into this country. In addition, a significant number of undocumented U.S. residents originally came here legally, having since overstated their visas. In short, if current strategies to secure our nation’s borders and reduce unauthorized immigration are ineffectual, simply redoubling on existing strategies may not be enough to make the region truly secure.
In Southern Arizona, it is estimated that it could cost as much as $289.8 million to finish constructing a border wall along the state’s entire border with Sonora. The cost of constructing a fence along the entire U.S.-Mexico border stands at approximately $5.5 billion. And this says nothing of the hundreds of millions of dollars that would be required to maintain this wall each year. Lawmakers will undoubtedly have to carefully weigh these costs against the potential benefits to see if such an action is truly worthwhile.
Another potentially expensive issue currently expected to be included in a Republican-drafted immigration reform bill is the proposal to create a national identification system for legal U.S. workers. New high tech ID cards are expected to resolve some of the issues employers and their employees have had with the extant federal E-Verify program. However, the immense cost of such a program could be an inevitable roadblock to those who would like to initiate it.