Immigration hawks who have examined the Secure Our Border First Act of 2015 say the American public should be gravely concerned by the legislation. The bill, which was introduced by House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul, is intended to provide additional security at the nation’s borders, but critics claim it has some glaring holes.
A GOP staffer familiar with the proposal tells NRO that the bill is tantamount to a slush fund for the president’s executive action on immigration: It proposes to spend $10 billion without doing anything to allow immigration officers to deport illegal immigrants.
The staffer also warns that the plan would weaken the existing border fence requirements by adding fewer miles of fencing than previously authorized, and that it does nothing to end the policy of “catch-and-release” of illegal immigrants crossing America’s southern border.
The bill consists of a list of shiny objects—such as drones, jeeps, and more agents—to be paid for by the taxpayer, but will be a wasted effort unless Congress addresses immigration enforcement, says Jessica Vaughan, the director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies.
“They think that by putting forward a fake border security bill, that will satisfy the public and rank-and-file members of the House and dissolve any objections to the other immigration expansion bills that they want to pass,” Vaughan says. “I really think they just want to make a show of passing enforcement bills.”
Vaughan warns that if House Republicans try to fast-track this legislation, voters should take it as the opening salvo in a larger effort to ram through components of the failed 2013 Gang of Eight immigration bill bit-by-bit in the new Congress.
The Republican staffer says McCaul’s bill does nothing to target interior enforcement, and is worried that it will pave the way for the GOP establishment to begin work on legislation to expand foreign worker programs.
In a statement to NRO, McCaul argues that his committee does not have jurisdiction over interior enforcement and stresses that his bill focuses solely on the nation’s borders. “Our border must be dealt with through regular order and in a step-by-step approach—not through any type of comprehensive immigration reform,” McCaul says in the statement. “The bill matches resources to needs, putting fencing where fencing is needed, and technology where technology is needed.”
Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, a stalwart opponent of the president’s executive action on immigration, has also spoken out against McCaul’s proposal. “The pending legislation does nothing to end this endemic practice of catch-and-release, ensuring large amounts of illegal immigration will continue unabated,” Sessions said in a statement on Tuesday. “Republicans won a historic midterm vote on the promise to take real action—not symbolic gestures—to end the immigration lawlessness. It is essential that any immigration measures moved by the Republican Congress actually do the job.”
McCaul’s proposal is being marked up in the House Homeland Security Committee this afternoon. Vaughan says she’s hopeful that the amendment process can improve the legislation, but adds that while the bill could be a framework upon which to build, she still has her doubts.
“It really does appear that the leadership in the House of Representatives wants to make people think that they have done something at the border,” Vaughan says. “Voters didn’t send all these new Republican representatives to pass the lowest common denominator bill that they can.”