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Immigration reform's 'surge': The politics works, but will the policy?

The border security amendment that cleared the Senate Monday is the key to bringing in a big, bipartisan majority for the immigration reform bill. Critics say there are more effective ways to spend resources.

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The Arizona-Mexico border fence near Naco, Ariz., as seen in March. In a bid to win broader bipartisan support for a proposed immigration reform bill, the US Senate this week passed a measure mandating 700 miles of fencing along the southern border.

Samantha Sais/Reuters/File

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Immigration reform continued forward on Wednesday, when the Senate approved an amendment promising a "border surge" by a 69-27 vote. 

But that same amendment, a compromise struck between Republican senators and the "Gang of 8" authors of the immigration bill, is being criticized as being more about big, splashy numbers than finding best policy to staunch illegal immigration. 

Attracting the most skeptical head-cocking in and around Capitol Hill is $30 billion in new funds to double the number of border patrol agents on the southern border – a splurge that more than tripled the bill’s cost.

That’s before an additional chunk of funds to expand southern border fencing to 700 miles from the 350 required miles in the original bill, helping to bring the bill’s total cost to $48 billion, up from some $8 billion in its original form

Could you pass a US citizenship test? Could you pass a US citizenship test?
 

“If you really wanted to spend money, this is not where I’d want to spend money,” says Seth Stodder, who served as as director of policy and planning for US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) from 2001 to 2004, of the border-security amendment struck by Republican Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and John Hoeven of North Dakota with the "Gang of Eight" authors of the immigration bill.

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