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CQ: Homeland Security Panel Offers Border Security Bill

CQ — By CQ Staff

A group of bipartisan leaders from the House Homeland Security Committee filed their entry into the flurry of emerging immigration overhaul proposals Tuesday, with a measure aimed at creating a comprehensive national strategy to secure the nation’s borders.

“This legislation compels the use of taxpayer-owned technology to gain situational awareness of our borders so that we can finally see what we’re missing, and doing so will allow us to develop measures to gauge progress,” said Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas. “For too long, we have approached border security backwards: by throwing resources at the problem, to plug the holes on our borders without a comprehensive plan to tactically distribute those resources.”

Michigan Republican Candice S. Miller, chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, said the bill would take a critical step in assuring the public about the level of security at the border.

“I want to ensure that we do not repeat the mistakes made in the past, nor can we accept empty promises on border security,” Miller said. “We need hard, verifiable facts.”

Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn introduced a companion measure the same day.

“Since 2010, the administration has failed to provide a metric for determining border security, yet they continue to claim that the border is secure,” Cornyn said. “By requiring the administration to come up with a clear measurement of security, as well as a timeline for development and implementation, we can ensure that our national security policy is based on real results and not baseless claims.”

The bill, which did not have a number as of press time, comes after a hearing last month where Miller expressed disappointment that the Border Control Index that the Department of Homeland Security has been developing for the past two years would not provide a single measurement of how secure the border is.

“Two things continue to be absent from the way this administration approaches border security: a serious plan to secure the border, and tangible ways to measure success or failure,” she said.

Miller said the bill would address those issues by requiring the department to develop a border security plan and develop metrics for success. A security plan would be due within 120 days of the bill passing, and the department would be expected to have “situational awareness” of the northern and southern borders within two years and “operational control” within two years of the department implementing its strategy.

The Republicans were joined in sponsoring the bill by the ranking Democrat on Miller’s subcommittee, Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas. Jackson Lee said the bill serves as a repudiation of the argument that Congress can’t overhaul the immigration system until the country takes additional border security actions.

“I think this answers all the skepticism that we cannot do border security as a part of comprehensive immigration reform,” she said. “We can do both at the same time.”