McCaul, Napolitano offer competing plans for immigration and border

Feb 7, 2013 Issues: Border Security

Fierce Government News -- By Zach Rausnitz

As part of the immigration reform debate, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee said Feb. 6 that he'll unveil a framework for border security next week.

The chairman, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), said on a radio program a few days prior that his plan would work toward "operational control" of the border, which he predicted would take several years. The operational control metric, which Customs and Border Protection stopped using in fiscal 2010, describes areas where CBP conducts constant detection and interdiction with a high probability of immediate apprehension.

About his forthcoming plan for operational control, McCaul said he's "going to be riding this very hard." He also said it should be a prerequisite for broader immigration reform.

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"Promises of border security are empty unless they are enacted before changes to our immigration system," McCaul said in a Feb. 6 statement.

One aspect of his plan will be to repurpose surveillance drones that the military is using is Afghanistan for use along the border with Mexico. "These are existing assets. This doesn't cost new money," he said during the radio interview.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, for her part, spent part of the week visiting the border, where she said security has improved under the Obama administration.

"I believe the border is secure. I believe it is a safe border," she said in San Diego on Feb. 4, according to Arizona Public Media.

After her trip, she met with law enforcement officials in Washington, where she argued that immigration reform could allow for better border security, essentially the reverse of McCaul's position. In her view, broader reform would help border agents focus on security threats, a DHS release said.

McCaul has scheduled a hearing for Feb. 13 where he said he'll discuss border security goals.