Michael McCaul’s Team Responds to Conservatives Preparing to Revolt

by Joel Gehrke

House Homeland Security Committee chairman Michael McCaul’s team took issue with a memo circulating among some conservative congressional offices that I quoted while reporting yesterday on how some Republicans are attacking the Texas lawmaker’s border-security proposals. A committee aide offered a point-by-point response to the memo as it was quoted in my piece, which you can read below.

“First, it ‘leaves President Obama’s amnesty for those who enter the country illegally as minors in place.’”

RESPONSE: This is a border security bill, not an immigration bill.

“The memo states the proposal ‘delegates all of Congress’ authority over border security to President Obama, who has proven time and time again that he will not secure the border.’”

RESPONSE: The bill does quite the opposite by requiring the Department to report to Congress every step of the way. The legislation provides much needed accountability and oversight to ensure our border is secure once and for all.

The President is not leading on this important national security issue and so Congress must. We must not shirk our duty to move vital legislation because we are worried the President won’t listen to us.

Furthermore, this results-driven legislation was designed to take the politics out of this national security issue, and require this and future Administrations to act. For example DHS must report to an independent certifying board, which will include individuals like our border sheriffs who know the border best. This board will verify the metrics used to measure progress and that the Department is complying with the terms of the bill. It holds DHS’s feet to the fire with a tight timeline requiring the Department to gain operational control of high traffic areas of border within two years.

“The memo suggests that the likely House proposal would weaken current law by defining border security as interdiction of 90 percent of illegal border crossings, rather than 100 percent.”

RESPONSE: The 90 percent is a minimum requirement, not a goal. This minimum requirement was approved by all Committee members and is a massive improvement over current practice. Right now we are stopping less than half of what comes across. The 100 percent standard in the Secure Fence Act is not realistic. This is like a mayor asking his police chief to prevent 100 percent of crime in his town.

“It also does not require Obama to increase the number of Border Patrol agents or to build any security fence.”

RESPONSE: For too long, the Federal government has approached border security backwards – by throwing resources at the problem to plug the holes on our borders without a coherent plan.Spending billions of dollars without a long-term plan and calls for an unrealistic 19,000 more Border Patrol agents that would not be in place for a decade, like the Corker-Hoeven amendment required, is bad government. And the President’s emergency funding request is more of the same.

To truly secure the border we must have the resources and a plan. H.R. 1417 fixes the current ad hoc approach of continually plugging holes on the border, and finally addresses border security from the top down. The bill requires a national strategy to gain and maintain operational control of the nation’s borders first.

Furthermore, instead of being overly prescriptive by authorizing a specific mileage of fencing, H.R. 1417 asks the Border Patrol to look at fence, agents and technology as part of a menu of options to secure the border to the 90 percent minimum requirement. The implementation plan is clear on the need to consider ‘new physical barriers’:

Bill excerpt: “… estimates of the relative cost effectiveness of various border security strategies and operations, including deployment of personnel and technology, and construction of new physical and virtual barriers.”

And to make sure there is no doubt that we require the Border Patrol to consider additional fencing needs, we have modified the bill to include an additional item in the strategy:

Bill excerpt: “… An assessment of existing border fencing and barriers, including the need for additional fencing and barriers (including double-layer fencing), and the need for upgrades and repairs to such existing fencing and barriers.”