With the end of the government shutdown last week, President Obama is trying to pivot back to immigration in the hopes of passing amnesty during this Congress.
The Senate has already passed an incredibly flawed bill that makes lots of promises but ultimately guarantees nothing but amnesty. Now the House of Representatives is considering various immigration bills, most notably Representative Mike McCaul’s (R–TX) H.R. 1417. However, this bill has flaws of its own, not to mention the dangerous reality that, if passed, it will go to conference with the Senate bill—and only bad policies can come from that.
H.R. 1417 would create new metrics for measuring the effectiveness of border security operations and calls for new plans to gain operational control and situational awareness in certain high-traffic areas along the border. H.R. 1417 would also require at least 10 new reports that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would have to submit to Congress, half of which would be redundant.
Regrettably, the metrics that H.R. 1417 would create are largely misguided. DHS is already supposed to understand what is going on at the border, but it doesn’t. Doubling down on old requirements and adding new ones won’t make DHS somehow do its job better.
Importantly, the metrics and requirements DHS creates are susceptible to changes in border conditions and statistical illusions. For example, the bill requires that 90 percent of those trying to cross the border illegally are stopped in order to achieve “operational control.” If an illegal immigrant is turned back at the border 10 times and then slips through on the 11th time without anyone noticing, the McCaul bill would count that as 10 success stories and zero failures.
While H.R. 1417 is right not to throw money at the problem, flawed metrics and endless reporting requirements do not solve the problem, either. Perhaps even more troubling than the faulty policies in H.R. 1417 is that, if passed, it will go into a conference with the Senate’s S. 744, a bloated, costly, ineffective, and fundamentally flawed bill. Even if the perfect bill went into a conference with the Senate bill, many good policies would be stripped out and many dangerous policies (such as mass amnesty) would likely be added in.
Thankfully for conservatives, new legislation is not needed to fix our broken borders. By working through the budget process, Congress can provide more support to existing border security programs. Congress should work to improve cooperative activities with state and local governments as well as with Mexico and Canada. Congress should also make and oversee targeted investments in border infrastructure and technology to assist Customs and Border Protection in its mission. Furthermore, Congress should use the power of the purse to demand that existing laws be enforced and current security and enforcement programs be fully leveraged to stop those who break U.S. immigration law.
With hollow metrics and the potential to serve as a trigger for amnesty, H.R. 1417 fails to address U.S. border security challenges. There is a better way. The House should enhance U.S. border security by working through the normal budget process and calling for full enforcement of existing immigration laws.