You might expect anti-immigration groups to be in an uproar over spending cuts contained in the recent budget deal, like a $226 million cut to Border Security Fencing, Infrastructure, and Technology or $97 million in cuts to IT modernization programs at Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In fact, the cuts have generated barely a peep from border hawks, who have given the GOP a free pass even after years of campaigning for increased resources.
According to Rosemary Jenks, director of government affairs for NumbersUSA, her group is not protesting any of the reductions in spending. Nor will any Republicans be penalized in their annual grades for voting for them.
“For an administration that’s decided it’s not a priority, it doesn’t make sense to throw money at them,” Jenks told TPM in an interview before Congress agreed to a final spending deal.
The final spending cuts were actually less severe than the Republicans’ initial proposal, which would have included deeper cuts to CBP’s border security and technology program and eliminated money for an increase of about 1,000 border agents. \
The proposed cuts drew criticism from a number of Democratic lawmakers, including Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Jon Tester (D-MT), who labeled the reductions “simply dangerous” in a letter to the House Appropriations Committee.
As ABC News noted, a number of House Republicans who voted for the bill had demanded more resources for a fence and improved surveillance only weeks earlier. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) called on Congress to reinstate funding for more border agents. NumbersUSA’s executive director Roy Beck offered at least token complaints to the press at first, saying he would prefer to see funding for the border fence survive.
But despite Beck’s tepid early objections, Jenks said her organization sees little to complain about overall.
“They don’t have a lot of room to complain because they haven’t been using money effectively anyway,” she said. “If there were a real desire to control the border, they still have over 20,000 border agents ready to the job already.”
Republicans who voted for the cuts won’t see any change in their annual grades from the group.
“It wouldn’t be fair for us to score the vote because I don’t think members are voting to cut border security,” Jenks said.
Another major border security group, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, put out no press releases on the spending debate.
The issue could regain some prominence in the coming weeks, however, as Republicans look to pass legislation that would make up for their own party’s cuts with additional border dollars. Arizona’s two Republican Senators, John McCain and John Kyl, recently introduced a bill that would beef up security along the Mexican border with $4 billion over the next five years for more fence construction and drone surveillance. Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) “Path to Prosperity” calls for billions in additional cuts to Homeland Security over the next decade below the White House’s own budget request, meaning the issue will return again as the House works its way through the 2012 budget process.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.