Pouring money into immigration fight not answer

— The Santa Fe New Mexican

To all those complaining that the United States is on the wrong path, we would have to say, “We agree!”
Of course, our path and that described by many of the complainers — people who worry more about individual morality and long for imagined good ol’ days — might differ.
We are talking about the need to dismantle the perpetual war machine. Even as we leave both Iraq and Afghanistan, the military defense contractors will not let loose of the government work they need to increase profit margins.
The New York Times recently detailed new programs that basically mean more money for Big Defense, these to tighten border security between the U.S. and Mexico. After all, now that military forces are coming home, the big business interests have to make money somewhere.
These contractors are pitching military-grade radar and long-range camera systems to the Homeland Security Department in hopes of winning a contract worth as much as $1 billion. Additional aerial drones on the border are possible as well, the better to track illegal crossings, according to supporters of the idea.
(Ten Predator B drones already are in the skies.)
It’s all in anticipation of proposed immigration legislation, which won’t allow citizenship for the 11 million-plus people here illegally unless the border is sealed tight as a tick. More drones, more surveillance and to make that happen, of course, more money — money, frankly, the U.S. could put to better uses.
A recent Fronteras news service report showed that “After more than 5,700 hours of flying time last year — at a total operating cost of at least $18 million — drones helped agents confiscate just 3 percent of all drugs seized along the border last year.”
Drones only helped border agents catch just 143 people out of 365,000 apprehensions last year, U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported. Hardly great border security for the price.
But don’t think of it as border security, think of this as an “ongoing stream of revenue,” for defense contractors, Arizona State University economics professor Dennis L. Hoffman, described it to the Times.
“There are only so many missile systems and Apache attack helicopters you can sell.”
No matter. Defense contractors will make plenty of money other ways — and building up a military force on our border is just another way for them to profit and for taxpayers to pay.
Congress — especially New Mexico’s senators, Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich — should not let the urgency of immigration reform turn into a blank check to Big Defense.
We can’t let the need to pass immigration reform offer further excuse to increase military surveillance in the lives of Americans, either. The difficulty of ensuring “effective control” of the border, which the Senate legislation demands, could pack a double whammy: increased drones and surveillance and a bar for security so high that immigrants cannot win citizenship.
This is the wrong path for the United States. It’s time we called halt.