Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, last year proposed a logical approach to border security: In rejecting measures to put the “cart” of border spending before the “horse” of measuring what resources are needed, he introduced legislation that, in his own words, “demands a plan, verified by outside experts, before one dollar is spent on new resources.”
His bill passed the committee unanimously.
Nevertheless, the same committee will be marking up a bill today, introduced by none other than Chairman McCaul, that’s completely opposed to the philosophy the Texas Republican put forward less than a year ago.
The Secure Our Borders First Act would authorize $10 billion in spending over the next decade, including on drones, fencing, massive road construction, Border Patrol bases, state National Guard deployments, and even state and local police. It would also lock in inflexible minimum levels of staffing for Customs and Border Protection officers and agents, transfer military equipment from war zones to the borders, and allow Border Patrol unprecedented access to public lands. This last provision would override environmental protections in what The Coalition of National Park Service Retirees previously called, “the most direct assault on national parks ever to be advanced at any level in any Congress in U.S. history.”
Last year’s McCaul’s bill, the Border Security Results Act, would have required the Department of Homeland Security to develop “a comprehensive outcome-based strategy to achieve operational control of the border.” That was defined as stopping 9 out of ten unauthorized migrants. Now 90 percent has been ramped up to 100 percent in McCaul’s new bill, which means that the government is mandating perfect border security, using your tax dollars, without a plan.
The ACLU and other organizations representing border communities have told the committee that what’s needed at CBP is oversight and accountability, not an open faucet of wasteful spending like the bill’s embrace of CBP drones two weeks after a damning DHS Inspector General report titled “CBP Drones are Dubious Achievers.” The McCaul bill should be firmly rejected by Congress or vetoed by the president.
Congress must instead take a hard look at the true state of CBP. Reform means body-worn cameras, a functioning complaint process, and a reduction of the 100-mile zone in which CBP operates as a “Constitution-Free agency.” It’s deeply troubling to border residents who already live in militarized conditions – with drones and other constant surveillance, checkpoints, and roving patrols dominating and harassing their lives – that Chairman McCaul has cast aside last year’s philosophy.
He now wants to open wide taxpayers’ wallets without having a strategy in place, either for border security or for bringing best police practices to CBP – the country’s largest, and most troubled, law enforcement agency.