Congress Agrees, the Southwest Is an Emergency

By Janice Kephart on August 11, 2010

Congress has essentially declared the southwest border an emergency, a welcome acknowledgment under the circumstances. In 24 hours, the U.S. House introduced and passed by voice vote an emergency supplemental appropriation for border security for this year. The road has now been paved for a relatively quick September reconciliation with the U.S. Senate version of a near-exact bill passed August 5. The irony here is that while President Obama used his May 2010 request for $500 million in emergency monies to secure the Southwest border and gain traction for amnesty, Congress outdid him and made clear that the border is so out of control, they provided $100 million more in an unusual bipartisan move. An important side note is that the president is so intent on amnesty he has sought the advice of counsel on how to achieve amnesty with or without Congress, as we now know from the leak of the USCIS memo obtained by Sen. Grassley (R-Iowa) and released on July 29.

Nonetheless, if the administration carries out the appropriations to both the letter and spirit of its intent, the appropriation may be helpful, especially if agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, alongside Immigration and Customs Enforcement and more prosecutorial resources, can back up the Border Patrol and CBP inspectors as necessary.

An unspoken requirement for these monies should be that all federal law enforcement must have equal and unfettered access to federal lands, which for years they have had trouble obtaining, despite MOUs on the issue achieved by the prior administration. Federal lands are currently the thoroughfare for the ugliest of the alien smuggling and drug cartel trafficking in Arizona because Border Patrol is restricted in their activities on these lands by the Department of Interior. The illegal alien traffic, not the Border Patrol, is also responsible for about 99 percent of the destruction of the border national parks, and the Department of Interior knows it.

No matter how much Congress provides in increased personnel and monies, it will not matter much if the Border Patrol is curtailed in its ability to patrol most of the Arizona border due to Department of Interior operational limitations. For now, these lands must be treated as requiring emergency measures or the value of this supplemental will be sorely reduced. Otherwise, we risk an unprecedented national security issue on our Southwest border. This particular issue is highlighted by my July 2010 film, "Hidden Cameras on the Arizona Border 2: Guns, Drugs and 850 Illegal Aliens."

Below is a summary of the appropriation earmarks contained in both HR6080 and S3721 bills, both of which seek to upgrade border security along or related to the Southwest border.
• 1,000-plus more Border Patrol agents, Customs and Border Protection inspectors, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and other personnel
• Acquisition and deployment of unmanned aircraft systems
• Department of Justice law enforcement activities
• Courts of appeals, district courts, and other judicial services related to the Southwest border law enforcement activity.

These items were add-ons by the Congress, but not requested by the administration:
• Basic training for new staff
• Construction of up to two Border Patrol forward operating bases
• Border security fencing, infrastructure, and technology.

The following items are in the Senate bill, but not specified in the House version:
• Designing, building, and deploying tactical communications for support of enforcement activities on the Southwest Border.
• Specific enhancements for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to initiate and continue investigations to reduce violence and a slight increase over the administration request to hire more agents, investigators, intelligence analysts, and support personnel.
• Training for the new CBP officers, Border Patrol agents, and ICE personnel.

How is the supplemental being paid for? First, Congress voided out the failed Secure Border Initiative and is using a leftover $100 million from that fund, per the administration's request. Second, Congress took the initiative – to be applauded – to infuse greater integrity into overseas employment visa processes to assure they are properly vetted and not associated with fraud. As my colleague James Edwards has noted, India is objecting. There is an irony there as well. I have been discussing identity fraud for years at USCIS. Last year, I wrote and produced a "Border Basics" film providing recommendations and describing how an Indian man used employment based fraud to enter and embed in the U.S., change his status, and only be caught when he was thought to be a potential terrorist at the San Antonio airport in August 2009; See "Three Years of Fraud in the U.S.: The Case of Manoj Kargudri" (Dec. 2009).