McCaul Pushing for DHS Revamp on Border Security

Feb 13, 2013 Issues: Border Security

By Jennifer Scholtes

House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul announced Wednesday that he will introduce a bill intended to force the Department of Homeland Security to lay out a national strategy for securing the nation’s borders.

The newly seated chairman, a Texas Republican, said he is particularly concerned about the work DHS does to secure the Southwest border. His proposal is essential to successfully overhauling the U.S. immigration system, he said.

“The 1986 immigration reform did not stop the flow of illegal immigrants, and we cannot support reforms today unless they hinge on gaining effective control of our borders,” McCaul said during a hearing on homeland security threats. “Until the administration creates a comprehensive national strategy to secure our borders — that includes a reasonable definition of operational control we can measure — we cannot quantify success or failure.”

Despite numerous DHS polices on border-related issues, the department lacks a clearly articulated and centralized strategy that focuses on securing the border, McCaul has said.

The panel’s ranking Democrat, Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, echoed the chairman’s call this week for more clearly articulated border strategy. DHS is currently without a plan for coordinating how the Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement interact on border security, Thompson said.

“Since 2004, we have doubled the number of Border Patrol agents and more than doubled the number of unauthorized aliens removed from this country,” Thompson said. “In our examination of the border, we cannot be limited by calling for more of the same. . . . We must continue to press DHS for such a strategy. Without it, we cannot be certain our border control resources are strategic and well-coordinated.”

McCaul is still working on his bill, but he released a framework Wednesday that outlines the four main requirements he hopes to impose on DHS.

Under the chairman’s plan, DHS would have to give Congress a long-term analysis of where the United States is most vulnerable, “based off a holistic picture of our borders.” The department would have to incorporate existing technology, such as sensor surveillance equipment used by the military, into its border operations.

McCaul says he wants to see Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano begin quantifying the country’s success in protecting the border by disclosing how much of the border is under “operational control,” rather than focusing on the number of illegal immigrants apprehended. Under McCaul’s proposal, the department would have to give Congress a plan for making sure its agencies aren’t unnecessarily overlapping in their border security work.

Jennifer Scholtes can be reached at jscholtes@cq.com

Read more: http://www.cq.com/doc/hsnews-4220274?wr=RDlYTlRja3lSajVDZDZ1Z3pDVzRQZw