Sunday, August 17, 2014

Economics of Texas' border 'surge' unsustainable

I'm glad to see Texas legislators are beginning to question the enormous ad hoc expenditures recently approved for the governor's ill-considered border security surge. Reported the Texas Tribune (Aug. 12):
“The border has got to be secured. We’ve got to stop this,” said Committee Chairwoman Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound. But the federal government would have to step in to make the effort sustainable, she added. “Month by month, we’re draining state resources that should go to education, should go to highways, should go to water, and we can’t do it forever.”

Democratic Sens. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa of McAllen and Judith Zaffirini of Laredo emerged as the strongest critics of the deployment. Hinojosa said giving more funding to the Texas Department of Public Safety, which ramped up its border presence in June, would have been more effective than sending in the National Guard. Hinojosa voiced concerns that the National Guard’s concentration in the Rio Grande Valley would simply encourage smugglers and traffickers to move to Laredo and other points north.

"Those are issues that I think were not really thought out and planned out," he said. ...
National Guard and DPS costs will total $17 million to $18 million per month. [Adjutant General John ] Nichols said the costs for August will be somewhat lower, as many troops are still in training and not yet at the border, but the money will probably dry up by mid- to late October. Without a new infusion of financial support, he said, the Guard would then have to begin a gradual drawdown of troops.
Finally! After the state has thrown hundreds of millions of dollars at misbegotten border security boondoggles with little to show for it, the budget numbers are getting SO big that the Lege must confront head-on how to fund it. Given that there are no cost-benefit metrics to show these surges help anyone at all, at any level - especially compared to other public-safety expenditures like treatment courts or anti-recidivism and reentry programs -  eventually one imagines the surge must cease, possibly as soon as October, when the state is projected to run out of funds. Will the 84th Legislature, with Rick Perry out of the picture, choose to spend that money to keep DPS and the National Guard at the border instead of on education, healthcare or roads? Who knows? But it's clear the status quo of a joint DPS-Guard surge is as economically untenable as it is strategically dubious. To keep it up, they'll have to raise taxes or cut somewhere else.

Prison closures, anyone?

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this item misidentified Adjutant General John Nichols as state Sen. Robert Nichols. Grits regrets the error.


Anonymous said...

Those who complain about the number of immigrants need to consider this. Many of those who cross the border have done so several times and been deported. Those who cross five times are not five people, they are just one person. Get the numbers straight.

Joorie Doodie said...

State Rep. Matt Schaefer (Tyler) advocates authorizing "military-style" operations across the border into Mexico. What could POSSIBLY go wrong with that, eh? Here are my comments, complete with a link to the story in the Tyler Morning Telegraph:

Anonymous said...

Unless they are going to send fully armed Apache helicopters to patrol the border, I agree that this whole thang is a boondoggle. The folks on the border are starting to question this, and if you ask the basic Border Patrol Agent Agent happened last time the National Guard came to help, they will agree, that they were useless.
Not to stir up your liberal base about the wars in the Iraq and Afghanistan, but if our country was paying cops and ex-cops over a $100,000 a year to be adviser and contractors over there, then why don't they take the DPS/NG budget and hire Texas peace officers or retired federal immigration agents to go down there and do some real work.

Anonymous said...

The Nichols referred to here is not the state senator but the Adjutant General.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Thanks, 1:25, I corrected it.