Failing to Put Your (Appropriations) Money Where Your Mouth Is

By Dan Cadman on January 4, 2019

My colleague Andrew Arthur has posted a perceptive blog about the current border wall funding impasse in which he points out some of the inconsistencies certain Democratic leaders are putting forward in their arguments as to why a border barrier is either superfluous or a bad idea.

Specifically, Arthur quotes Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), "[who] will likely be the chairwoman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee's Homeland Security Subcommittee, and will hold the purse strings on immigration-enforcement funding":

The fact is that there are serious homeland security vulnerabilities that will not be addressed if the president is allowed to squander $5.7 billion on a border wall. This includes not being able to hire more law enforcement agents to focus on opioid, gang, trade, and child exploitation investigations. No funding to recapitalize the Coast Guard's air and sea fleets, including the procurement of our first heavy icebreaker since the 1970s. As the Arctic ice recedes, Russia, China and other countries are winning the race to lay claim to the vast resources of that region, where at times there is no U.S. presence. There will be no funding to hire additional customs officers to intercept illicit drugs and other contraband, almost all of which comes into our country through the ports of entry. And, Mr. Chairman there will no increased funding for first responder grants to help states and localities better prepare and respond to terrorism and disasters of every kind.

Arthur has already noted that Roybal-Allard's statement contains nary a word about immigration enforcement. But three additional questions immediately leapt to my mind when I read this:

First, what makes the representative think that a physical barrier is not as effective in preventing cross-border smuggling of marijuana, fentanyl, heroin, and other drugs heading north into our country, not to mention weapons, munitions, and illicit money moving south? All evidence is to the contrary, since it is well known that contraband smugglers use the same porous pathways in crossing that alien smugglers use to bring their human cargo. In fact, they are as often as not one-and-the-same individuals and gangs who traffic whatever the market will bear, since the emphasis is on profit.

Second, why is this an "either-or" proposition? That defies logic on any level whatsoever. How often have we heard politicians from both parties speak of "smart border security" and "layered defenses"? Translated into plain English, that means tens of billions of dollars for humans and technology — and yet they refuse to pony up $5 billion for a physical barrier that will do more to prevent illegal crossers than any type of technology on the market, short of lethal force technology which we all know and agree is a non-starter. The patent hypocrisy in the position is made obvious by the just-passed House bill that, while denying border barrier funds, adds an additional $12 billion for foreign aid.

Third, I found myself pondering the depth of Roybal-Allard's commitment to her statement, even on her terms. To find out, I searched the website for legislation she has sponsored. Among the items from the previous Congress was House Amendment 310 to amend House Bill 3354. This amendment proposed to actually reduce the funding available to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by nearly $900 million, with the money appropriated to the U.S. Coast Guard instead. Although the amendment failed, the question once again is why introduce it at all? What made it necessary to reallocate that already-appropriated money? Why was it an either-or proposition? Would it not have been more appropriate to simply introduce legislation giving the Coast Guard the funds that she perceives the agency needs? The answer seems obvious: Taking it from ICE would cripple its enforcement efforts.

Parenthetically, none of the other legislation of which Roybal-Allard was a co-sponsor revealed by the search provided additional money to be appropriated for the purposes she asserted are critical to the nation's well-being. As the saying goes, "put your money (or, in this case, the taxpayer's) where your mouth is." The representative has not.

What we are left with is the conclusion that Roybal-Allard has been less than candid in claiming that these other needs are suffering because of the administration's focus on the wall. That's a smokescreen to mask the fact that she appears completely indifferent to any effective federal response to a broken system of security on our southern border, whether it is to interdict drugs or aliens.