Jim's Blog

Congressman Jim Bridenstine Visits Southern Border

Posted by on October 30, 2014 | comments
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Many of you remember when President Obama's Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) denied me access to the Fort Sill HHS facility during the high point of the Unaccompanied Children (UAC) crisis. Based upon the response to my Securing America townhall, it's clear many folks in the First District understand that border security is national security and the Obama Administration is utterly failing to protect American sovereignty and safety. Last Friday, I went on a fact-finding visit to the southern border with my friend Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).  We visited with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel manning the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) sector.

The RGV is immense.  The sector covers 316 border miles, about 35,000 square miles total, and spans 34 Texas counties.  RGV is the most trafficked sector in the country for human smuggling and drug cartel activity.  RGV accounts for about 50% of total annual apprehensions of illegal immigrants along the southern border.  Rep. Blackburn and I visited the McAllen Border Patrol Station and RGV Centralized Processing Center before meeting with CBP agents and National Guard personnel on the frontlines.

Here are my takeaways:

  1. We need to reallocate funding to border security.  Rio Grande Valley CBP apprehended over 250,000 illegal immigrants in FY14 with only 3,000 agents and an operational budget of less than $20 million.  Those numbers are woefully insufficient. 
  • According to Senator Tom Coburn's latest Wastebook, the federal government spends over 4 times more ($90 million) on promoting U.S. culture around the globe with nose flutists.  That is $70 million more than the RGV sector's operational budget.
  • The President authorized sending more U.S. troops to West Africa to fight Ebola (3,200) than the 3,000 CBP folks we have fighting human smuggling and drug trafficking along the Rio Grande.  It's a credit to the professionalism of CBP that it can do so much with so little.  A modest reallocation from lesser priorities would go a long way toward securing our country.
  • Leaked DHS figures indicate that 231 individuals were caught illegally crossing into the United States from Liberia, 145 from Sierra Leone, and another 112 from Guinea.
  1. The Obama Administration is prioritizing environmental protection over border security.  The RGV sector covers 316 miles of border.  Protected Wildlife Refuges comprise over 60% of that area.  Border Patrol operations are totally hamstrung in Refuge areas by EPA and Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) regulations, which limit access and provide a safe haven for cartels to smuggle people and drugs. EPA, FWS, and other environmental protection regulations either prohibit or severely limit camera surveillance, lighting, and road access.  CBP agents can generally only access these areas on foot or by horse.  It is time to place national security above ridiculous and cumbersome environmental regulations. 
  2. Access and surveillance are key enablers of immigration enforcement.  Building double layer fencing along the border is important and required by law.  Yet, CBP personnel repeatedly told me that better surveillance and access can really increase effectiveness. Congress and the Obama Administration can increase CBP surveillance capability (eyes in the sky) through providing more infrared, electro/optical, and full motion video sensors on fixed, mobile, and airborne platforms.  Indeed, RGV leadership told me that providing only 2 or 3 more aerostat surveillance balloons would make a huge difference by greatly expanding coverage.  Since this is a national security issue, I intend to introduce provisions in next year's National Defense Authorization Act  to authorize a military transfer of surveillance technology to the CBP.
  3. Article 1, section 8 of the U.S. Constitution makes clear that Congress has the authority to create an uniform rule of naturalization, not the President.  With disregard for the Constitution, in June of 2012, President Obama offered deferred action to every illegal immigrant who entered the country before his or her 16th birthday.  Deferred action is a use of prosecutorial discretion to defer removal of illegal immigrants. Simply put, deferred action is a euphemism for not enforcing the law.  By June of 2014, the President had offered work permits and delayed action to 862,000 people.  The PresidentÍs unconstitutional deferred action policies incentivized mass waves of illegal immigration.
    Now, the President wants to drastically increase his unconstitutional policy and expand deferred action to cover 34 million illegal immigrants over 5 years.  According to CBP prediction models, the President's upcoming amnesty by executive order will exacerbate border security problems.  Even talking about further deferred action executive orders will spur massive illegal immigration.  Without any further amnesty, CBP projects it will apprehend 200,000 illegal immigrants in FY15 in the RGV sector alone.  Yet, RGV leadership told me that deferred action expansion  (amnesty for up to 34 million illegal immigrants) would increase predicted apprehensions by 100,000 this fiscal year. 
    Remember, apprehensions only cover the people who are caught and detained.  The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office reports that CBP only apprehends 1 out of 5 illegals that cross the border.  According to CBP officials, every communication from elected officials, including President Obama, regarding amnesty or border security is monitored by transnational criminal organizations that smuggle humans.  These communications are used to encourage or discourage more illegal immigration.
  4. Threatening to cut foreign aid provides leverage that will cause Mexico and Central American governments to act responsibly regarding illegal immigration.  The U.S. provides nearly $170 million in annual foreign aid to Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.  Foreign aid to Mexico is $265 million.  During the high point of the UAC crisis, the U.S. House passed H.R. 5230, which included Congressman Blackburn's language to suspend foreign aid to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador until those countries made significant progress to stem the flow of illegal immigration into the United States. RGV leadership told me that H.R. 5230 had a dramatic effect on the behavior of consular officials from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.  The mere threat of congressional action caused these consular officials to tell illegal immigrants to stay home once deported rather than try to cross the border again and again.  According to NPR, the Mexican government is paying fees for attorneys who assist deferred action applicants in the United States.  The Mexican government prefers welfare provided by the U.S. taxpayer.  Foreign aide should be cut in response to this action.
Tags: Defense and National Security, Immigration
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