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Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security Holds Hearing on Border: “Secure Border Initiative–Its Impact and Evolution”

In enforcement, legislation on March 11, 2009 at 7:43 pm

“$3.6 billion dollars. ”

That’s how Chairman David Price (NC) began his opening remarks at the hearing I attended to yesterday on the Secure Border Initiative.

“That’s what Congress provided in the past three years to the Border Security Fencing, Infrastructure, and Technology (BSFIT) account, targeted at securing around 6,000 miles of land border as part of the Secure Border Initiative (SBI)….Today we will take stock of this program. How is it progressing? Is it working? Are we spending enough or too much?”

The subcommittee members and those testifying seemed to measure the notion of progress with very different strides.

Some members, like Ranking Member Rogers, believe there are “unacceptable” delays in development of Border Patrol along both the northern and southern borders. Others–quite shockingly to me–believed we should look to Israel’s development of the Jericho Wall for technology and manning tips.

On the other side of the spectrum, members like Congressman Rotham (NJ) seemed dismayed that the Chief of U.S. Border Patrol could not report whether the border wall actually stemmed or deterred the flow of undocumented migration. The witnesses also could not tell Chairman Price what percentage or to what extent the increase in “effective control” over the last few years has related directly to the building of the border wall and physical barriers vs. increased number of agents, the economy and a downturn in immigration to the United States, etc.

Overall, I felt the hearing ended without any sort of conclusion as to the effectiveness or progress of the Secure Border Initiative. In many ways, I felt the witnesses were trying to defend the use of their increased funding by pointing out that effective enforcement has dramatically risen during this time. However, they were also repeatedly reiterating that the wall itself was not enough, so as to stay off the record as saying the wall was the solution.

The one ray of light in the hearing was when Congresswoman Roybal-Allard (who recently introduced the Immigration Oversight and Fairness Act, H.R. 1215) asked a question about what is being done to ensure that children and others are being well treated at the Border Patrol stations. While she did not press the witnesses much on the multiple reports of abuse and human rights violations, it at least placed the issues on Congressional record.

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