Politicians using smoke screen against public

Editorial

If lawmakers are worried about border security, they sure aren’t putting their money where their mouths are.

Congress recently allocated $747 million to some 50 U.S. cities in its latest round of anti-terrorism funding, and just like previous allocations the money isn’t addressing what many say is their primary concern — keeping terrorists out of this country.

Of the 50 cities that received funding, only four are on the border, not including coastal cities or those along the Great Lakes: Buffalo, N.Y., and Detroit along the Canadian border and El Paso and San Diego bordering Mexico.

The total amount going to those four cities is about $42 million. The remaining $700 million is going the same way most pork-barrel allocations go, to the districts of the most powerful legislators.

More than half of the total amount — $410 million — is targeted for seven cities: New York City, $134 million; Los Angeles, $72 million; the District of Columbia, $62 million; Chicago, $47 million; Newark, N.J., $36 million; San Francisco, $34 million; and Houston, $25 million.

To be sure, terrorists can strike anywhere; before Sept. 11, 2001, our nation’s largest terrorist attack had taken place in Oklahoma City.

Virtually every city in the country will say it can use all the security funding it can get, whether to hire more police officers, upgrade equipment or buy more squad cars.

It would be wrong, therefore, to compare relative need among cities. However, the halls of Congress are filled with alarmists who continue to call for curtailing immigration, and rounding up all undocumented Hispanics and shipping them out of the country. They bray at length about our need to put a wall all along our Southern border, presumably to stave off a mass incursion of terrorists from Mexico.

And yet, when it comes to putting down the dime to pay for such extreme measures, they instead treat the funding like all other discretionary funds, and try to pocket the most they can.

Not that we wish the money were coming to South Texas or closer to here. Those who live on the border can see clearly that no wall is needed. But the allocations reveal a great deal about the members of Congress who say they’re terrified about our porous borders, and that we should be too.

Ignoring the border when it comes to allocating the money suggests one of two possibilities:

• If they truly believe the border is a conduit for terrorism, and they’re not simply being nationalistic and xenophobic when they cry that our current immigration situation could lead to the downfall of American society as we know it, then they are selling out our nation’s security by taking the money to their home districts rather than address a problem they believe is real.

• More likely, however, they aren’t any more afraid of immigrants than a majority of sensible Americans are, and their red flags have only been a tactic to alarm people and make them believe they need the politicians to keep them safe from harm, so that they’ll keep supporting them with their money and their votes.

Either way, it suggests a need for more cynicism from the American people than we’ve seen regarding just how imperiled we really are, and who’s really responsible for our nation’s insecurities.