During his press briefing on Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner said that he's "hopeful" the House will move on immigration legislation before the end of the year. With House Republicans sticking to the mantra of border security before amnesty, it's likely the chamber will soon act on H.R.1417, the McCaul-Jackson Lee "border security" bill. Our legislative analyst Grant Newman has dissected the legislation, and he reports that the bill won't secure the border and even weakens existing law.
THREE WAYS H.R.1417 WEAKENS CURRENT LAW
1) Secures only part of the border - The Secure Fence Act of 2006 requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to "take all actions the Secretary determines necessary and appropriate to achieve and maintain operational control over the entire international land and maritime borders of the United States." The McCaul-Jackson Lee legislation, however, only requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to submit "a comprehensive strategy for gaining and maintaining situational awareness and operational control of high traffic areas" within 2 years and "operational control along the southwest border" within 5 years.
So, instead of requiring DHS to secure the entire border, now the agency simply has to submit a plan to Congress detailing how it would secure portions of the border. There are requirements in H.R.1417 to implement the Secretary's plan, but should the agency fail to do so, the only consequence is for DHS to submit a report to Congress explaining why it failed (or didn't try).
2) Redefines "operational control" - The Secure Fence Act of 2006 defined the term "operational control" as prevention of ALL unlawful entries into the United States. The McCaul-Jackson Lee bill redefines the term to achieving a 90% effectiveness rate to be determined by DHS based on its own estimates of those who evade detection and apprehension.
There are a number of independent reports that have found that DHS misses as much as half the unlawful border entries. Is this really an agency that we want determining the effectiveness rate of its own monitoring of the border? Not too mention that allowing 10% of illegal border crossers, which could include drug runners, criminals and terrorists, is considered effective.
3) Guts Biometric Entry/Exit - The 9/11 Commission recommended that the federal government implement a biometric entry/exit system at all ports of entry to better monitor the movement of non-immigrant visitors to and from the United States. In 2004, Congress codified a mandatory biometric entry/exit system in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, and yet, there's still no system in place. Instead of requiring completion of the entry/exit system, the McCaul-Jackson Lee bill gives DHS an out. The bill requires DHS to develop a plan to implement a biometric system at all ports of entry, unless the Secretary determines that such a system is not feasible. In that case, DHS can develop a plan for an alternative system.
The inability to implement a biometric entry/exit system at all ports of entry is one of DHS's biggest failures. A recent report from the Center for Immigration Studies found that not only would a system be easy to implement, but given current technology, it would be very affordable. Giving DHS the opportunity, though, to develop and alternate system would almost guarantee that a biometric entry/exit system will never exist.
H.R. 1417 passed through the House Homeland Security Committee in May with bipartisan support. The list of cosponsors include pro-amnesty supporters Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Ron Barber (D-Ariz.), and Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.). And earlier this month, more than 100 Democrats unveiled a "comprehensive immigration reform" amnesty bill in which the bills authors, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), included H.R.1417 in the bill's language.
The McCaul-Jackson Lee border bill doesn't take steps to ensure border security; it simply gives amnesty supporters a way to say they've secured the border without actually doing so.
To learn more about the McCaul-Jackson Lee bill, see our one-page fact sheet.
CHRIS CHMIELENSKI is the Director of Content & Activism for NumbersUSA
Updated: Thu, Dec 1st 2016 @ 1:35pm EST