Committee on Homeland Security Passes Secure Our Borders First Act
WASHINGTON, D.C. – 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.