Border securityOur farblondzhet senators

By Robert Lee Maril

Published 28 June 2013

The Senate immigration reform bill has been presented as an effort to resolve the many complex problems resulting from the Immigration and Reform Act (IRCA) of 1986. Whether the bill passed by the Senate yesterday will succeed remains to be seen, but what is not in doubt is the fact that the border security provisions in the bill, in the words of Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), read “like a Christmas wish list for Halliburton” and other big defense contractors. This is unfortunate, because the U.S.-Mexico border has become a graveyard for a long list of ambitious, technology-heavy – but ultimately ineffective and exceedingly wasteful – programs.

Robert Lee Maril, professor of sociology at East Carolina University // Source:

As the days of summer get longer and hotter, our senators in Washington are becoming more and more farblondzhet. Even as deaths of illegal immigrants mount up as never before, senators generate stacks of new legislation and amendments to the new legislation (see “Big surge in border-crossing deaths reported,” USA Today, 18 March 2013).    Perhaps the Yiddish word farblondzhet seems the best word to describe the Senate legislation intended to resolve the many complex problems resulting from the Immigration and Reform Act (IRCA) of 1986.

Although there is no exact translation of farblondzhet, it falls within the definition of lost and confused, wandering aimlessly with no hope in sight.

At the top of the farblondzhet list are Republican and Democratic senators willing to focus most of their efforts on “border security” to the neglect of other real issues created by IRCA. According to the polls, most Americans want to fix the broken system. So do many senators and members of Congress, and so does President Obama.  

Only a Senate majority, in spite of the best efforts of the Gang of Eight, can’t agree on how to fix it, at least not until just a few days ago.  Republican senators have taken the current Senate bill from the Gang of Eight and made it more palatable to others in their party — along with a number of Democrats — by highlighting “border security.” They claim that very, very soon a majority of senators will pass the amended legislation, leaving the House appearing incompetent if it fails to give a thumbs-up on the new Senate legislation which, after reconciliation, will go to a president eager to sign [the border security provisions in Gang of Eight’s immigration reform bill were strengthened by an amendment authored by Senator Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) and John Hoeven (R-North Dakota); the bill was passed by the Senate on Thursday, 27 June 2013, by a 68-32 vote].

And what, after almost three decades of problems generated by IRCA, did these farblondzhet senators come up with? Nothing short of a shopping list of big-ticket items that should send defense contractors into a feeding frenzy. Except there’s no reason for the frenzy because these same contractors have been lobbying for expensive technological fixes to border security since President Obama was sworn to a second term  with an agenda prioritizing immigration reform. 

These same corporations are not stupid, just incredibly greedy. “Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont),” according to