by Alex Gonzalez
On Friday, the House Judiciary Committee passed an immigration bill to “secure the border” and build “interior” enforcement agencies. In essence, this bill grows the scope of government and fixes nothing. Regrettably, the bill utterly fails to address the concerns of businesses that have asked Republicans to come up with real solution to the broken immigration system that harasses businesses. Read full bill below.
Putting fencing where fencing is needed, in the words of Rep. Michael McCaul, are code words for building fences that are a waste of taxpayers’ money since this is new version of 2006 “Fence Act,” which according to Government Accountability Office (GAO) it was 90 percent finished by 2009. Thus, this new “Borders First Act” bill is merely a symbolic bill to appease the tea party hard-liners who refuse to compromise on immigration, but does nothing for the business community that needs workers, business community that actually funds the federal government. This is a DOA bill since Republicans lack 6o votes in the Senate, or 2/3 to override presidential veto.
The 2006 “Fence Act” was not completed 100 percent due to opposition from land owners in South Texas, and other border states, who refused to give in to pressure from the federal government to surrender their private property to build fences. And though the fence was completed 90 percent, the issue of illegal immigration here in the country remains the same. Therefore, fences alone will never work.
Moreover, this bill only increases the size, and power, of federal agencies like Border Patrol (CBP) that lacks accountability. Internal Reports by Homeland Security Office of Inspector General have underlined that this lack of accountability within the CBP is due to the rapid growth of the agency without federal oversight; the CBP is “an out-of-control law enforcement agency,” the reports underlines. Thus this bill only continues to waste taxpayer’s money without actually fixing the broken immigration system.
The bill does fund the Texas National Guard currently stationed at the border. However, the purpose of the National Guard at the border was to assist the CBP with the detention of children from Central America, the so-called “Border kids.” Yet, the bill never amends the law. Thus, what we have is systemic structural problems that will not be fixed under this bill. As a result, even if we put the entire U.S. Army at the border, and build triple-layered fences, we will still have “border kids,” and Cubans who qualify for asylum under the Wet-foot Dry-foot, being trafficked through Mexico and send in to arms of the CBP agents or National Guardsmen so they can ask for asylum. Consequently, this bill does not fix the “magnet” that is being abused by Cubans and “border kids.”
Additionally, this week, the updated FBI’s Uniform Crime Report shows that border communities in South Texas are safer than most major metro areas of Texas and the nation. So growing federal agencies in south Texas under the pretense of “secure border” is waste of taxpayer’s money.
If Republicans in the House want to link “undocumented workers” to any security threats of terrorism, they should be focusing on the northern border and Europe, not Mexico. Recent terrorist attacks in Canada, France, and other European nations, underscore that any terrorist attacks will come from European citizens, or Canada, who can enter the U.S, without visa. Likewise, in a Special Committee hearing in early December in Austin to assess the fiscal impact the National Guard and the Department of Public Safety (DPS), Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw said there is “no credible information that a terrorist has crossed or will cross” the Texas-Mexico border. There is not credible link between undocumented workers from Mexico and terrorist threats through the southern border.
Similarly, the new jobs report show unemployment in Texas is now at 4.6 percent and in some areas like Midland set a record low unemployment, falling to 2.1. Texas businesses need workers and Republicans in the House are doing nothing to bring Texas businesses “out of the shadow.”
Yet Republicans from Texas in the House are not addressing this issue to guarantee that the businesses in the state have a vibrant labor pool of workers to support the growth of the state economy. Undocumented pool of workers in Texas is estimated to be about 10 percent, and intertwined in the strength and growth of economy.
If Republicans want to continue their attacks on President Obama, they can do so because that is politics. But pandering to hard-liners over the concerns of businesses and religious groups is a failed “pro-growth economic agenda” from the start. Republican were supposed to be working on a pro-growth agenda to demonstrate they can a governing party.
The conservative U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Texas Association of Business, repeatedly have stated that Republicans need fix the broken immigration system that provides commonsense measures that not only better secure our borders but also provide the American economy with the workers it needs. This bill is counter to needs of the economy and the business community because it keeps the clandestine black market that businesses are forced into when they cannot find workers.
In June of 2013, the House Judiciary Committee passed the The Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act (SAFE Act) That bill was also a immigration bill that had it become law, would have increased the size of government to unprecedented levels. Those only bills double down on failed strategies that will do next to nothing to stem unauthorized immigration. In other words, at least on immigration, rater than working on “limited government,” the House Judiciary Committee passes bills that waste taxpayers’ money and grows the scope government.
This Secure our Borders First Act of 2015 is bad policy because it does not fix structural problems, and bad politics for Republicans to win the White House since it perpetuates the idea that Republican are only pandering to tea party hard-liners and avoiding an comprehensive immigration bill.
Alex Gonzalez is a political Analyst and Political Director for Latinos Ready To Vote! comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
Today, the Committee on Homeland Security passed by a vote of 18-12, H.R. 399, the Secure our Borders First Act of 2015. Introduced by Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, the legislation requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to gain and maintain operational control of the international borders of the United States.
“The number one provision in the Constitution is to provide for the common defense of our country, and our borders are a national security concern,” said McCaul. “The Committee on Homeland Security does not have jurisdiction over interior enforcement, so the “Secure Our Borders First” bill deals solely with the problem at our southern, northern, and maritime borders – a problem that has plagued this country for 25 years.
“Our border must be dealt with through regular order and in a step-by-step approach – not through any type of comprehensive immigration reform. We must stop the bleeding at the border. The bill matches resources to needs, putting fencing where fencing is needed and technology where technology is needed. My constituents in my home district and my home state of Texas spoke loud and clear. They want the border secured.
“Tonight, we passed the bill out of committee, with numerous Republican amendments that I believe makes the bill stronger and more effective. For example, with Rep. Roger’s amendment, we will finally complete the 700 miles of the Secure Fence Act. The Democrats have indicated they will do anything to make sure this bill does not pass, which tells me that this is exactly the bill that our border needs. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues in the House to amend and pass this bill.”
The Secure Our Borders First Act requires the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to achieve 100% operational control of high traffic areas of the southwest border in two years – and the entire southwest border in five years – and establishes a commission to independently verify that the border is secure. The legislation enforces penalties on DHS political appointees if the administration does not meet the terms of the bill.
Additionally, the bill provides sector-by-sector analysis of threats and needs on the border and attaches to that the resources necessary to gain operational control. This includes the allocation of technology capabilities in each sector along the southern border, the construction and replacement of fencing and access roads, and additional flight hours.
The legislation also bolsters border security by providing Border Patrol agents access to federal lands, granting flexibility to Customs and Border Protection to relocate resources, fully funding the National Guard on the border and increasing grants funding for local law enforcement agencies who assist in securing the border.
Amendments to the bill include:
- An amendment, sponsored by Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Alabama, to require the additional miles of double layer fencing needed to complete the 700 miles authorized under the Secure Fence Act of 2006
- An amendment, sponsored by Rep. Scott Perry, R-Penn., to add an Air and Marine Security Metric requiring a detailed description of how, where, and for how long data and images taken by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are collected and stored;
- An amendment, sponsored by Rep. Scott Perry, R-Penn., to require DHS to ensure that internal control standards identified by the GAO are adhered to in carrying out the capability and resource deployment along the northern and southern border.
- An amendment, sponsored by Rep. Curt Clawson, R-Fla., to create seaport specific metrics for securing the border at ports of entry to measure the amount and type of illicit drugs seized by the Office of Field Operations at United States seaports, and the percentage of containers scanned at each seaport every fiscal year
- An amendment, sponsored by Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y., to require the Chief of the Border Patrol to deploy additional capabilities to the northern border, in a risk-based manner, not later than 18 months after enactment.
- An amendment, sponsored by Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, to require the Border Patrol to utilize actionable intelligence to conduct border security operations with federal, state, and local partners to combat terror and transnational criminal threats.
- An amendment, sponsored by Rep. Ratcliffe, R-Texas, to require CBP’s Office of Air and Marine to annually submit to Congress a report on UAV effectiveness and use by mission
- An amendment, sponsored by Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., to require the Secretary of Homeland Security to submit to Congress reports and recommendations of the DHS Science and Technology and CBP’s biometric exit pilots.
- An amendment, sponsored by Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., to require the Chief of the Border Patrol to ensure that Border Patrol personnel are deployed and patrol as close to the physical land border as possible, and deploy the maximum practicable number of Border Patrol agents to forward operating bases.
McSally’s amendment also adds to the required capability deployment provisions, a requirement for a rapid reaction capability, supported by air support and requires the Border Security Verification Commission to consult with ranchers living along the border.
Cosponsors of the bill are: Reps. Candice Miller R-Mich., subcommittee chairman of the Border and Maritime Security, Will Hurd, R-Texas, John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, and Martha McSally, R-Ariz., Pete Sessions, R-Texas, Ted Poe, R-Texas, Roger Williams, R-Texas, Bill Flores, R-Texas, Pete Olson, R-Texas, Rob Bishop, R-Utah, John Culberson, R-Texas, Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, John Carter, R-Texas, Larry Bucshon, R-Ind., Curt Clawson, R-Fla., Steven M. Palazzo, R-Miss., Peter King, R-N.Y., Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas, Scott Perry, R-Pa., Mike Coffman, R-Colo., Cresent Hardy, R-Nev., John Katko, R-N.Y.
Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., have introduced companion legislation in the Senate.
To watch the committee members discuss the bill, click HERE.
For more information on the bill, click HERE.