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Lawmakers look to America's northern border

The immigration reform bill passed by the Senate increases the number of new Customs and Border Patrol officers and adds billions more to pay for border security, mostly on the southern border.

5,500 -- that’s the number of miles we share with Canada.

It’s considered the longest international border in the world. But when it comes to patrolling that border, the federal government spends a sliver of its $12 billion budget there. That imbalance may come up when U.S. Senators travel to Montana later today and speak with residents about protecting the northern border.

If you line up the northern border patrol agents in one line and all the southern ones in another, Edward Alden with the Council on Foreign Relations says, it’s not even close.

“There are 18,500 on the border with Mexico and just over 2,200 on the border with Canada,” he says.

Why the disparity?

“It’s just straight economics,” says Alden. He says agents made 330,000 arrests on the Mexican border last year, only 13,000 in the north.

“The big thing that drives people to come to the United States illegally is a chance of making a lot more money. And if your average person coming from Mexico can increase [their] wage 3-4 times, that’s just not the case coming from Canada,” he says.

If the Senate has its way, the gap in resources may only grow.

Bloomberg Government analyst Matthew Hummer says the southern border would likely take the lion’s share of the nearly $50 billion dollars in added security spending in the Senate immigration bill.

“A lot of that would go to defense contractors and providers of different technology, surveillance equipment,” says Hummer.  He says it makes sense, you put resources where you get the most for your money.


 Moving to Canada? Better get a lawyer The old political punchline about moving to Canada if an election goes the wrong way is more than a joke to some -- and a lot harder to pull off than most people suspect.


 

About the author

Dan Gorenstein is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Health Desk. You can follow him on Twitter @dmgorenstein.
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