Congress aims to stop 90 percent of illegal border crossing

May 15, 2013 Issues: Border Security

WASHINGTON - A group of House members wants to ensure border security before discussing comprehensive immigration reform.

On May 14, members of the House Homeland Security Committee amended and approved the Border Security Results Act of 2013 and sent it to the floor.

“We have seen the promises of border security coupled with immigration reform go unfulfilled in the past,” Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, the committee chair, said. “If Congress again addresses immigration changes without focusing on the root of the problem we will undoubtedly repeat this debate a decade from now.”

Their plan: increase security and measure progress.

“For too long, the emphasis when discussing border security has been on the number of resources thrown at the problem, but this is only part of the equation,” McCaul said. “We cannot continue to rely on measures such as apprehensions to give us a false sense of security.”

The bill would require the Department of Homeland Security to create a plan to stop 90 percent of people who cross the border illegally and reduce traffic of drugs and other contraband. DHS would have between two and five years to reach all the plan’s goals.  

DHS would submit reports to Congress on the results of the enforcement of the plan on the borders and ports, including details on drug trafficking and deaths related to border patrol.

Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., proposed an amendment to use biometric identification to monitor documented immigrants from their entrance in the country, through airports, ports or borders, until they leave.

“Implementation of a biometrics exit component to U.S.-VISIT was a key 9/11 Commission recommendation. None of this has really come into place,” Sanchez said. “In the absence of a biometrics exit capability, we will never be able to truly address the overstay problems of visas.”

The amendment passed 29-0.

While there’s no exact data on how undocumented immigrants enter the country, the most recent study by the Pew Research Hispanic Center done in 2006 estimated that 45 percent of undocumented immigrants entered the U.S. with a legal visa and overstayed after it expired.

“When we talk about border security we are not just focused on the southern border,” Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., said. “So before we give a false sense of illusion to the American people that by securing the southern border and the northern border that we have secured the borders and we can now move forward with an immigration reform. I caution us, any state that has an international airport, you are a border state.”

Even though attempts to cross the border illegally decreased 50 percent since 2008, committee members said immigration reform will not happen until the American people feel safe.

“I care about this immigration reform. It’s incredibly important to our nation,” Sanchez said. “And we are not going to be able to do that until we can satisfy ourselves and the American people that we have our border under control.”