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Border security in immigration bill: a giveaway to defense firms?

The crisis in Syria relegated comprehensive immigration reform to the back burner yet again. While no one denies the urgency of dealing with the vicious conflict and chemical weapons use in that country, the situation was recently stabilized somewhat by the U.S.-Russia agreement to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons hoard within a year. So why aren't the desperately-needed reforms to U.S. immigration law back at the forefront?

One immigration activist has an interesting theory. He claims defense and border security contractors have been actively shaping the reform agenda to emphasize increasing border security to an almost draconian point.

"Despite the fact that local authorities have provided evidence that public safety on the border is not out of control," the activist, who is with the immigrant defense organization Alliance San Diego, told EFE recently, "the interference of entities seeking to benefit economically impedes public policies that appropriately attend to border issues."

He contends that some $38 billion for additional border security equipment and personnel was included in the Senate’s immigration reform bill, primarily as a giveaway to federal defense and border security contractors.

Contractors such as Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman, he points out, are facing some reversals in fortune. The sequester, general budget cutbacks, and the end of massive contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan are pinching these contractors, and the contractors are keen to reverse their losses with lucrative border security contracts.

If it’s true that defense contractors have been pressuring legislators to maximize their profits in the reform bill, it might explain, in part, the sudden lack of urgency once the Syrian conflict came to a head. After all, they could just as easily profit from a new war.

Whatever you may think of that aspect of the immigration activist’s theory, his conclusion that billions in heightened border security apparently comes at the expense of border-state residents seems pretty valid. The emphasis on security spending “is letting fall by the wayside the investments promoting trade and the flow of people, such as modernizing ports of entry,” he says.

Here in New York, it’s easy to see the U.S.-Mexico border as a distant problem, although we have a close-up view of the growing restrictions on free movement and trade between the U.S. and Canada. If reforming U.S. immigration law is being hijacked by special interests, however, the impact is not at all remote.

Source: Fox News Latino, “Defense contractors see possible bonanza in immigration reform,” EFE, Sept. 19, 2013

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