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On Wednesday, the House Committee on Homeland Security passed an amended version H.R. 399, the Secure our Borders First Act of 2015, by a vote of 18-to-12. The bill, introduced by Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Texas), would require the Secretary of Homeland Security to gain and maintain operational control of the international borders of the United States.

“Tonight, we passed the bill out of committee, with numerous Republican amendments that I believe makes the bill stronger and more effective. For example, with Rep. [Mike] Roger’s amendment, we will finally complete the 700 miles of the Secure Fence Act," said Rep. McCaul.

Amendments to the bill include:

  • An amendment, sponsored by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) to require the additional miles of double layer fencing needed to complete the 700 miles authorized under the Secure Fence Act of 2006
  • An amendment, sponsored by Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), to require the Chief of the Border Patrol to deploy additional capabilities to the northern border, in a risk-based manner, not later than 18 months after enactment.
  • An amendment, sponsored by Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz)., to require the Chief of the Border Patrol to ensure that Border Patrol personnel are deployed and patrol as close to the physical land border as possible, and deploy the maximum practicable number of Border Patrol agents to forward operating bases.

Before the markup, several people expressed concerns over the bill. Director of Policy Studies at the Center for Immigration Studies Jessica Vaughan called the bill "an Empty Green Suit."

While this bill is an improvement over the border security bill approved by this committee in the previous Congress and, if implemented, would greatly improve our understanding of what actually goes on at the border and ports of entry, it falls far short of what is needed to slow the flow of illegal immigration and prevent the entry of terrorists and criminals.

Vaughan also told The Daily Caller that the bill "throws a lot of money at the border agencies without making the needed policy changes that would deter illegal immigration, such as tighter workplace verification and consistent repatriation of illegals."

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) also voiced his concerns in a statement released before the markup:

The Chairman McCaul proposal does not include the following reforms needed to achieve a sound immigration system: it does not end catch-and-release; it does not require mandatory detention and return; it does not include worksite enforcement; it does not close dangerous asylum and national security loopholes; it does not cut-off access to federal welfare; and it does not require completion of the border fence. Surprisingly, it delays and weakens the longstanding unfulfilled statutory requirement for a biometric entry-exit visa tracking system.

Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) have introduced companion legislation in the Senate.

Watch the Markup of H.R. 399

border control

Updated: Thu, Feb 5th 2015 @ 10:50am EST