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Now With Alex
updated 6/21/2013 6:16:01 PM ET 2013-06-21T22:16:01

Sen. Patrick Leahy signaled Friday that the Senate Judiciary Committee would reluctantly support the "border surge", despite its reading "like a Christmas wish list for Halliburton."

On Friday’s NOW, the panel discussed the state of the immigration reform bill slowly making its way through the senate. On Thursday, Republican Senators Bob Corker and John Hoeven reached a deal with the bipartisan Gang of Eight on border security that could secure its passage in the Senate, though the bill’s chances in the House remain uncertain.

The so-called “Border Surge” increases security spending from the original $6.5 billion in the Gang of Eight bill to an eye-popping $30 billion.  It would complete the 700 mile border fence, double the number of border agents and utilize a range of drones, sensors and thermal imaging cameras, though the efficacy of such measures is very much in dispute.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) signaled Friday that the Senate Judiciary Committee would reluctantly support the amendment, despite its reading “like a Christmas wish list for Halliburton.”

I am sure there are federal contracting firms high-fiving at the prospect of all of the spending demanded by Senate Republicans in this amendment.  The litany of expensive services, technology, and hardware mandated by this package is combined with an inexplicable waiver of many normal contracting rules.  This is a potential recipe for waste, fraud and abuse.  It is astounding to me how far in the past the hard lessons we learned in Iraq appear to be.

Leahy went on to call the amendment “one of many tough choices necessary to continue making progress toward passage of this crucial bill.”

Video: ‘Border Surge’ offers hope for immigration bill, but not assurance

  1. Closed captioning of: ‘Border Surge’ offers hope for immigration bill, but not assurance

    >>> reform is starting to look like a reality on capitol hill , or at least in the senate . on thursday, republican senators bob corker and john hoeven reached a deal with the bipartisan gang of eight, an amendment on border security that could seal the deal for immigration reform passage in the upper chamber .

    >> this is about securing the border first. to get comprehensive immigration reform right, we've got to first secure the border .

    >> if anybody on either side of the aisle had any concerns whatsoever about the border being secure, certainly securing the border should not be an issue if this amendment passes.

    >> and when it comes to negotiating a deal on border security , the old idiom applies. give them an inch, and they will take a mile. except in this case, they took 350 miles. the agreement calls for a border surge that would complete 700 miles of the danged fence, in addition to the 651 miles of danged fencing already in place. and would double the number of border patrol agents from 21,000 to 40,000. enhanced technology on border drones, infrared ground sensors, long-range thermal imaging cameras and adopt the e-verify system. the price tag for securing the border ? roughly $30 billion. four times what the gang of eight originally proposed. despite the fact that current border enforcement has helped to bring u.s.-mexico immigration to net zero , senators are on board with the corker and hoeven amendment. yesterday they had passionate pleas to pass the dang legislation.

    >> the fact that 11 million people live in the shadows and live here in dee facto amnesty, and by god, being exploited every day. isn't it in our nation to come together and pass this legislation and not manufacture reasons for not doing that? isn't there enough of a penalty? isn't there enough border security now, thanks to my colleagues from north dakota and from tennessee?

    >> we are on the verge of a huge breakthrough on border security . with this agreement, we believe we have the makings of a strong, bipartisan final vote in favor of this immigration reform bill.

    >> but that optimism seems to stop at john boehner 's doorstep. as indeed does most optimism. even if the bill passes in the senate , it will still have to overcome the electrified border fence and alligator-filled moat that is the u.s. house of representatives . matt, i will read a fairly i think astute observation from jonathan shait in "new york" magazine. basically, did the senate overplay its hand? the trouble is that stronger border enhancement was always the things liberals were prepared to give on and now they're giving it up early in the process because the current version of the bill isn't attracting enough senate republican support. and the house will push whatever the senate passes further right, which means the compromise that might have been dangled to make the bill palatable in the house has already been used to get it through the senate .

    >> i do think that's a concern. on the other hand, you know, we have doubled the border patrol twice in the past 20 years, about to double it again. there is nothing really stopping us from doubling it two, three, four more times. it's a little -- right, exactly. i mean, it's --

    >> a chain of guards.

    >> you know, i mean, cain has wrote about you can pay people to dig holes and then fill them in again. i think that's what we're doing at this point. the fact is, if this is what people want in order to get a bill done, you know, i think that's -- is a compromise democrats are willing to make. it's a compromise i'm willing to make. it seems like a waste of time and money but there is a lot of deficit-reducing punch in actually doing comprehensive immigration reform . and that's the reason there is head room in the budget for this kind of bonanza.

    >> right. and the numbers came out and effectively said immigration reform would cut deficits by $197 billion in the next decade, $700 billion in the next two decades. that's where some of this $30 billion comes from. but even john mccain said, i don't know if it's money totally well-spent.

    >> well, even corker said that it's almost overkill. and this was his own -- this was his own legislation. i mean, it's ridiculous. and it is -- although i agree with you, matt, that, yes, to a certain extent, you can kind of keep adding elements ad infinitum . i guess you don't even need to add drones, because they have drones.

    >> adding more drones.

    >> yeah, exactly. maybe a stimulus. i do think there is something somewhat sinister about this kind of militaryized --

    >> border area.

    >> border area. where although immigration -- or like you said, immigration is at a net zero for mexico now. there's still going to be people caught in this kind of very militarized gauntlet.

    >> and, you eugene, i went to the border a couple weeks ago. it is the poorest place, there are cultures on both sides of the border fence to be putting infrared sensors in and drones and, you know -- double layers of fencing. is to ignore a certain reality.

    >> right. you were there. it's a 2,000-mile-long border . and, you know, river/desert/cactus. i mean, it's -- it is actually physically impossible, in my view, to --

    >> to secure it.

    >> to secure the border in the way they want it secured. but, as matthew said, we'll spend some money, theoretically, if this gets through, which i'm not sure it will, we'll spend some money on it, and that will be another economic stimulus , in addition to what we get from immigration reform . because i think when the bill gets to the house, i think the issue of path to citizenship is what it's going to flounder on. i just don't think they're going to get past that.

    >> well, look, i want to say that some of what the republican senators were just saying actually resonated with me in a way that you might not expect. in the following way. i actually don't think you can have true immigration reform , progressive immigration reform , without controlling immigrant flows. the 1986 immigration reform bill, which if it hasn't failed, we wouldn't be talking about this today so demonstrably, didn't work. totally failed to control immigrant flows, ultimately. so unless we're actually controlling the flows, we're really having a very much pretend discussion. now, i agree with what others have said. the border -- probably the dollar spent on more security at the border , isn't going to get you very much. i would emphasize, employer -- i would emphasize, ports and employer verification. a lot more. that's in the bill. i would probably amp that up.

    >> exactly. it would have to go much deeper than this bill, though. because what you're talking about, a bill like what you're talking about, would have to recognize the reality of the interconnectedness of the mexican and u.s. economies. and the flows, the annual and seasonal flows of people back and forth across the border , the links people have across the border . and it would take that into account in, you know, a realistic sort of real-world way. and we're expecting real world out of the you see congress? you're not going to get it.

    >> real world out of the senate , saying nothing of the house, where the raoul labrador, i believe, mocked the fear of a large senate passing, 70-vote passage of immigration reform saying, ooh, i'm scared. that is not a good sign. this is one of the guys working on the house bill.

    >> absolutely. you know, i mean, there is big problems getting anything passed the house, talking about this in terms of the farm bill and holds for immigration as well. we also do need to think about priorities here. it's good to have the immigration laws enforced. but it's already more than the whole rest of federal law enforcement combined. and that's the thing to think about. we have organized crime elements that kill people. and then we also have people who, you know, sneak here and try to work without a permit. you know -- and what's really the bigger problem for the country?

    >> right.

    >> and i think, you know, a sense of balance about where do we invest our law enforcement resources is very important.

    >> and before we go to break, worth noting, the u.s. to your point, matt, spends more on immigration enforcement activities than all other law enforcement agencies combined. after the break,

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