House Homeland Security Committee chairman Mike McCaul of Texas has introduced a border-security bill (HR 399), which will be marked up by the committee tomorrow afternoon. It’s a “mild-mannered bill,” in the delicate understatement of my colleague Jessica Vaughan; it has some useful provisions but is nothing to write home about. Vaughan notes: “If so many respected career Border Patrol officials are underwhelmed by this bill, then members of Congress should be, too.” Senator Sessions was more than underwhelmed: “The pending legislation does nothing to end this endemic practice of catch-and-release, ensuring large amounts of illegal immigration will continue unabated.”
But the concern that has greeted the bill stems primarily not from its specific provisions but from the suspicion that the fast-tracked bill is intended by the leadership to pave the way for passing amnesty and guestworker bills. In other words, the bill, dubbed the “Secure Our Borders First Act,” will be quickly followed by the “Import More Cheap Labor Second Act” and the “Amnesty Illegals Third Act.” The problem, of course, is that passing a border-security bill first doesn’t mean its provisions are implemented first. In fact, the bill mandates a biometric visa-tracking system (something Congress has done repeatedly, to little effect) but gives DHS nine years to finish it (five years with two two-year extensions).
This points to an improvement to the bill that would allay the fears of pro-borders folks: add a provision that prohibits any increase in immigration (whether via green cards or guestworkers) and prohibits any legalization of illegal aliens until the bill’s various mandates (not just visa-tracking but also fencing and other things) have all been satisfied. That would mean achieving border security first, not just passing a border-security bill first.
None of this changes the core problem — given the Obama administration’s ongoing dismantling of the immigration-enforcement infrastructure, nothing Congress passes will make much difference. It doesn’t really matter how good the Border Patrol or ICE are at apprehending illegal aliens if Obama’s minions simply let them go and give them work permits. But passage even of a milquetoast bill like HR399 — if it contained a genuine prioritization of enforcement over immigration hikes and amnesty — would send an important message to Americans that the GOP leadership is working for them, and not for the Chamber of Commerce and Microsoft.