Monday, June 4, 2012
Miller seeks to plug holes in border
By Chad Selweski
From her perch as chair of the House Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, Rep. Candice Miller is determined to repair a security operation on the U.S.-Canada border that is riddled with holes and, according to officials, presents a greater terrorism danger than the Mexican border.
Last week, the House passed a bill authored by Miller that requires the Department of Homeland Security to develop a comprehensive strategy for the U.S. borders and ports of entry. Miller’s Secure Border Act passed the House unanimously by voice vote and now heads to the U.S. Senate for consideration.
“For far too many years, our nation has lacked a clear and comprehensive plan to gain and maintain operational control of the borders,” said Miller, a Harrison Township Republican, in a statement after the House vote. “My legislation directs the secretary of DHS to develop a strategy for securing our borders and ports of entry by taking into account personnel, technology, and other resources to meet our nation’s security requirements.”
The border patrol strategy, produced by the U.S Border Patrol in 2004, was designed to gain and maintain “operational control” of the border. But a newly released 2012 border patrol strategy still lacks a standard to measure progress, according to Miller.
Concerns over border security rose dramatically on Capitol Hill when the Government Accountability Office reported last year that only 44 percent of the Southern border was under operational control, and that only 32 miles of the 4,000-mile Northern had reached an acceptable level of security.
Perhaps most discouraging was the report’s finding that Congress had spent an additional $2.9 billion but DHS had accomplished little improvement to border security.
Officials concede that the border is penetrated by illegal immigrants, criminals trafficking humans, drug smugglers and cigarette smugglers.
More importantly, the report notes that the DHS has said that illegal crossings by terrorists or those smuggling terrorist weapons is greater on the Canadian border than on the southern border. That weakness is due to the large expanse of the northern border, in many cases through rural areas with a limited law enforcement presence, and the growing prominence of Islamic extremists in Canada.
According to officials, human traffickers operating in the area of Macomb and St. Clair counties charge approximately $1,500 to smuggle a person who is of Canadian or Caribbean descent. The prices range up to $3,000 for people from Europe or Asia.
Over the past year, a greater emphasis has been placed on better cooperation between the DHS and the Border Patrol with local and state law enforcement authorities.
But Miller is still unhappy with an overall system that lacks an objective process of measuring effectiveness.
The key provisions in Miller’s bill would: require DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano to submit a comprehensive strategy to Congress within 180 days to gain and maintain operational control of the U.S borders within five years; and require Napolitano to submit a measurement system to the subcommittee within 180 days that analyzes the effectiveness of security at all land, air, and sea ports of entry.