Border security is the least controversial aspect of patriotic immigration reform—at least in terms of rhetoric. Virtually everyone in the debate gives lip-service to the principle.
Thus Obama's platform stated: "Barack Obama will secure our borders: Obama and Biden want to preserve the integrity of our borders."
Even the National Council of La Raza claims: "NCLR has repeatedly recognized the right of the United States, as a sovereign nation, to control its borders. Moreover, NCLR has supported numerous specific measures to strengthen border enforcement, provided that such enforcement is conducted fairly, humanely, and in a nondiscriminatory fashion."
Of course, this talk of border security is just sugar coating to make increases in legal immigration and amnesty, the rest of "comprehensive immigration reform", more palatable to Americans.
And, on close inspection, this coating is usually aspartame. When the left says border security must be "conducted fairly, humanely, and in a nondiscriminatory fashion" they mean no fence or troops on the border—in fact, no enforcement that threatens to be effective.
This Fair/Humane/Non-discriminatory blah blah approach is at odds with the will of the American people. They would like to complete the fence on the Southern Border by a margin of over 4-1.
With Republicans back in charge of the House, surely the very minimum that immigration patriots could expect is a serious border security bill.
Instead we get Rep. Candice Miller's (R-MI) Border Security Act of 2011 [PDF], which was released last Friday.
Right now this bill only has 18 co-sponsors. But the fact that Miller is chair of the subcommittee on border security and that the Homeland Security committee chair Peter King is a cosponsor suggests that this bill is likely to make it on the House floor.
Miller's bill comes on the heels of a Government Accountability Office report that only 44% of the Mexican Border is under "operational control." "Operational control" is defined in the 2006 Secure Fence Act as "the prevention of all unlawful entries into the United States, including entries by terrorists, other unlawful aliens, instruments of terrorism, narcotics, and other contraband."
But the bill has virtually no substance. It simply restates that the border is not under "operational control," makes a few other pious statements of fact about the duty of the federal government to enforce our borders and the problem of drug cartels—and instructs the Department of Homeland Security to develop a "comprehensive strategy for gaining operational control of the international borders of the United States within five years". This "strategy" would then go to the Committee on Homeland Security in the House and the Senate….which could then vote whether to enact and fund these recommendations.
Maybe if we had a cooperative President and Secretary of Homeland Security, this could be useful. However, as Rep Miller and King must know, neither Barack Obama nor Janet Napolitano (nor new Democratic National Committee chairthing Debbie Wasserman Schulz) have any desire to secure the border.
In fact, less than two weeks ago, Napolitano claimed "There is a perception that the border is worse now than it ever has been. That is wrong. The border is better now than it ever has been." [Napolitano: Security Along U.S.-Mexico Border 'Better Now Than It Has Ever Been', Associated Press, March 25, 2011]
Why should we trust any recommendations that her DHS gives us?
The truth is that we already know how to secure the border. (And if we didn't, we could ask the Israelis).
The San Diego double layered border fence consisted of solid 10 foot fence, and a fifteen foot fence with 150 feet in between them with roaming border patrol vehicles and an additional chain link fence. After the fence was completed in San Diego, illegal crossings in that sector went down by 95%.
While still governor of Arizona, Napolitano said stupidly: "You show me a 50-foot wall and I'll show you a 51-foot ladder at the border. That's the way the border works." [Transcript: "Obama's Border Fence", PBS, July 9, 2009]
But what she failed to mention is that it takes a while to climb up and down a fifty foot ladder. With sufficient manpower, the Border Patrol will spot all illegals bearing fifty-foot ladders before they set foot on American soil.
This simple concept applies also to the double layered fence. Yes, anyone with a ladder could get over the fences—but the roaming Border Patrol vehicles in the area in between them will catch them before they do.
The Secure Fence Act of 2006, which Rep. King introduced, called for such a double layered fence across 700 miles of the US Border. It passed both houses of Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support and George Bush signed it. But Congress did not properly fund it.
In 2007, an amendment was passed to eliminate the mandate of the double layered fence and give the option of the "virtual fence." The Government Accounting Office found in 2009 that only 32 miles of double fencing had been built. Then, earlier this year, Obama even cancelled the "virtual fence."
In 2008, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) introduced the Complete the Fence Act, which would have re-mandated the double fence right across the southern border and properly fund it. If they really wanted to secure the border, Republicans could simply reintroduce DeMint's bill—instead of asking for government bureaucrats to write a report.
Rep. Miller has a pretty solid record on immigration. And while King's early record in Congress left much to be desired, he has taken many proactive steps to truly promote border security in the last five years. I do not doubt that they truly want to secure the border. But it is hard to see the Secure Border Act as anything more than an empty symbolic gesture.
So what are they thinking?
The Los Angeles Times ran a god-awful piece on the Secure Border Act, which it described as a "legislative assault on illegal immigration." It quoted an unnamed Republican strategist who says that it would hurt the GOP's chances with Hispanic voters and that it is just a "vocal minority" of Republicans who oppose a "modernized immigration system that is consistent with the values of an immigrant nation."
(Translation from Republican Hack Speak: "Vocal minority" = 86%, which is the percentage of Republican voters who support building a fence. Only 8% of Republicans oppose it. "Modernized Immigration System" = amnesty and increases in legal immigration.)
The LA Times then quotes immigration scholar Wayne Cornelius, [email him]:
"It is all just symbolic showmanship. It will never get through the Senate. It may have short-term electoral utility but will not result in any real legislation." [GOP drafts legislative assault on illegal immigration, By Brian Bennett, March 30, 2011]
Miller's bill may be showmanship. But Cornelius is not correct about both its short-term electoral utility—and the fact that it couldn't make it through the Senate.
In 2006, the majority of Democratic Senators voted for the Secure Fence Act, which actually did do something effective to increase border security. Why wouldn't they vote for a bill that simply asks for a Democratic administration to write up its own plan to secure the border? That would give them cover to say that they support border security without actually doing anything about it.
And it would deprive the Republicans of the border security issue
The only other possible explanation I can imagine for Miller's bill: it aims to show the disconnect between Napolitano's claims that the border is secure and the fact that the government's own studies that show this is not the case.
Which may be fair enough—but this point could be made concurrently with legislation that will actually secure the border.
So I can't think of any good reason for this Miller masquerade. Maybe the GOP really is the Stupid Party.
Rep. Miller's press release stated:
"The lack of urgency to confront the problem puts this Administration at odds with the demands of the American people who are calling for a cohesive and comprehensive plan to gain and maintain operational control of the border."
[Miller Introduces Legislation Requiring DHS to Develop Strategy for Securing Our Borders, March 31, 2011]
But we already have a "cohesive and comprehensive plan" to secure the border. I hate to quote John McCain, but it's simple—"Complete the dang fence"
"Washington Watcher" [email him] is an anonymous source Inside The Beltway.