U.S. Representative Candice Miller (MI-10), Vice Chair of the House Homeland Security Committee and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, held a hearing today entitled, “A Study in Contrasts: House and Senate Approaches to Border Security.” The hearing assessed the two disparate approaches to border security by the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate. During Miller’s hearing, members and witnesses discussed current legislation before Congress: H.R. 1417, the Border Security Results Act which Miller is an original cosponsor of in the House, as well as discussed S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act that passed the Senate.
H.R. 1417, the Border Security Results Act which passed both the House Committee on Homeland Security Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee and the full Committee with broad bipartisan support, first calls for a strategy and an implementation plan to secure our borders to be produced before additional resources are expended. It requires metrics to increase accountability, and applies a standard of no less than 90% effectiveness to for the first time, holding the Department of Homeland Security accountable to an achievable, yet tough standard of border security.
The hearing heard from witnesses, such as the Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) who provided testimony on the Senate’s border security components and immigration approach, and heard from Representative Xavier Becerra (CA-34) on how he views the House should proceed. Additional witnesses included: Mr. Jayson Ahern, Former Acting Commissioner, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Mr. Edward (Ted) Alden, Bernard L. Schwartz senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and Mr. Rich Stana, Former Director, Homeland Security and Justice, Government Accountability Office.
Chairman Candice Miller Remarks as Delivered: “Our nation is in the middle of a very robust debate on the best path to reform our broken immigration system. An essential part of that debate is how we secure the border, so that in 10 years or 15 years we do not need to debate again and again.
“We need to reduce the flow of people coming to this country illegally: this includes those who sneak across the border, across the desert, and those who overstay their visas. This is more than an immigration issue; it’s a national security issue. We need to start by securing the southern border, but that is not the only that we have. All of our borders – our northern border, southern border and the maritime environment – are dynamic places, once we have secured a section of the border it is by no means secured forever. It can change.
“Without a nation-wide plan, the drug cartels and smugglers will continue to seek out the point of least resistance and succeed in coming into our country illegally by crossing our borders. The American people overwhelming agree that we need to secure the border – they have spoken out many times about that. It is something that unfortunately we failed to do in 1986, and immigration reform, in my mind, will not happen without the public – the American people – having a high degree of confidence that their Government is committed to enforcing the nation’s immigration laws and following through on our border security promises.
“A real border security plan has to be able to answer these simple questions: what does a secure border look like; how do we get there; and most importantly how do we measure progress of getting there. Spending billions of dollars on border security without a way to assess progress is really what we have done that for the last 20 years without truly understanding how effective the additional resources have been or measuring them.
“I am disappointed that the Senate continued this flawed approach with their immigration bill – to the tune of $46 billion dollars. I think without outcome-based metrics, accountability or a standard for success with real teeth, the Senate bill is more of the same – it’s a Washington solution and that will not deliver results. I do think that additional resources will be needed to achieve situational awareness, operational control of the border and enhance security at the ports of entry. But just spending additional resources without a strategy to secure the border or means to hold DHS accountable for a result creates conditions that are ripe for waste. Doubling the Border Patrol and tearing down hundreds of miles of fence just to rebuild it appears tough until you look deeper and ask the tough questions: Did the Chief of the Border Patrol say that’s what they needed to get the job done, or did Senators come up with those nice round numbers to get additional votes?
“Here in the House Homeland Security Committee, we have taken a radically different approach that addresses security based on results and certifiable metrics—not on resources alone. On a bipartisan basis, we passed a bill that will put us on the road to achieving real, tangible and most importantly verifiable border security. The Border Security Results Act of 2013 calls on the Department of Homeland Security to finally develop and implement a serious plan to secure the border, to develop metrics, and to gain the situational awareness needed to understand how the threat at the border evolves.
“The strategy and implementation plan required by this legislation will consist of actual analysis to inform how and where we apply resources we send to the border. This strategy will eliminate the ad hoc nature of our spending, and in short, it will answer the question: what does a secure border look like? Metrics called for in the bill are long overdue, because the American people and the Congress have been frustrated by this administration – past administrations as well – and its inability to come to grips with the need to secure our border and how we do so in a measurable, transparent way.
“Through our bill, the National Labs and border stakeholders will be able to offer needed expertise, so that what the Department of Homeland Security produces actually measures border security. We cannot continue to rely on faulty measures like how many resources we send to the border or the number of people we apprehend. Instead border security can only be based on hard and verifiable facts vetted by independent experts. Third-party verification by outside experts is an important part of our approach to make sure that Congress and the American people aren’t being misled and that promises made are promises kept.
“Every section of this bill was designed to give Congress and the American people a high degree of confidence that we are on the right path. This bill is about accountability and real results because DHS’ border components must be held to account for success, or failure – progress or not. And this bill is the right way to move forward. We can and must secure the border – the American people deserve no less.”