GOP Border-Enforcement Bill Introduced

It’s not comprehensive immigration reform, or anything like it, but Republican House members are hoping their latest immigration proposal will choke off illegal immigration and effectively seal the southwestern border of the United States. On March 31, Congresswoman Candice Miller (R-MI) introduced the “Secure Border Act of 2011,” a bill “to achieve operational control of and improve security at the international land borders of the United States, and for other purposes.” (See Bill text, H.R. 1299, 112th Congress, 31.Mar.2011.)

While Democrats dally on the issue of immigration reform, GOP lawmakers are going on the offensive – and going on the record – in opposition to illegal immigration. The bill begins with Congressional findings about a surge in crime “in close proximity” to the Mexican border – albeit without specifying which side of the border was affected – and cites states of emergency that Arizona and New Mexico declared in 2005 to address unspecified “criminal activity along the Southwest border.” It also points to a study by the General Accountability Office that found only 44 percent of the southwestern border to be under “operational control” of the government.

The bill would require the Secretary of Homeland Security to provide Congress with a “comprehensive strategy for gaining operational control of the international borders of the United States within five years,” and specifies that “[t]he strategy shall include an analysis of the following.

1)    Staffing requirements for all border security functions
2)    Investment in infrastructure, including pedestrian fencing, vehicle barriers, and roads
3)    The use of unmanned aerial vehicles, camera technology, and sensors
4)    Cooperation agreements with international, state, local, tribal, and other federal law enforcement agencies that have jurisdiction on the border
5)    Other means designed to detect, respond to, and interdict cross-border unlawful activity and to reduce the level of violence
6)    A schedule for implementing security measures, including a prioritization of future investments
7)    Considerations of risks to border communities and law enforcement”

In other words, the measure would force the federal government to “add more fencing, sensors, agents and even drones to stop every illegal entry into the United States.” (See GOP Drafts Legislative Assault on Illegal Immigration, by Brian Bennett, Los Angeles Times, 30.Mar.2011.) Critics of the measure say that sealing the border is an unrealistic goal, more designed to win political points than to actually solve our immigration problems. One commentator told the Los Angeles Times that demands to seal the border before tackling comprehensive immigration reform “is a recipe for policy paralysis.” In any case, the Obama administration has already done vastly more than the preceding one to curb illegal border crossings; even this enormous infusion of resources has failed to stanch the flow completely.

That may be the idea. In the unlikely event that a CIR bill made some headway in the coming months, it would count as a victory for President Obama and his party, and help the party to attract more of the growing Latino electorate – the one that helped put Obama in the White House. On the other hand, a strict enforcement-only bill – even if it goes nowhere – will energize a certain segment of the GOP base, and probably won’t repulse any more Latino voters than the party has already lost through its “driving while Latino” measures in Arizona and other states. Perhaps the political machinations are the “other purposes” referred to in the bill’s title. Time will tell.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.