Tuesday morning, Breitbart News’ Matt Boyle reported that the 844-page immigration bill contained a provision providing federal grants to purchase satellite phones for people living near or around the border. Javier Manjarres, a conservative reporter in Florida, dubbed them “MarcoPhones.” Senate aides involved in the legislation have told Breitbart News the program is designed to enhance border security in areas with weak cell reception.
“This obviously has nothing to with illegal immigrants,” Brian Rogers, spokesman for Sen. John McCain told Breitbart News. “[it] is instead aimed at helping the ranchers along the border protect themselves and their property.”
“This issue was raised in 2010 after a respected rancher named Rob Krentz was shot and killed on his land in Cochise County, Arizona,” Rogers continued. “Due to the lack of cell/GPS coverage in the area, he was unable to call for help and law enforcement was unable to locate him for 13 hours, by which time he was dead. If this program had been in place and Rob Krentz had a satellite phone, the outcome might have been different.”
Sen. Marco Rubio’s office said the provision is intended to “give rural residents and business owners near the Mexican border access to cell service and phones so they can quickly report border violence to the police and the Department of Homeland Security.”
Giving McCain and Rubio the benefit of the doubt, that the intent was to enhance border security, confusion over the program should caution lawmakers from dropping massive legislative proposals in the dead of night. Unveiling 800-page bills on an issue as emotional charged as immigration just two days before the first hearing on the subject puts the public on edge.
When the 2,000-page ObamaCare legislation was released just ahead of a vote, the public at least had some understanding of the broad outline of the proposal. There has been almost no public discussion of even general concepts of immigration reform until hours before the legislation was released. The secretive process, up to this point, jeopardizes the public’s trust on the issue.
One tragedy, to me, does not justify a new federal grant program, but that is a debate worth having. This is especially true as the legislation appropriates “such funds as shall be necessary,” making it an open-ended appropriation. Given the loud public outcry over “ObamaPhones”, “Gang” negotiators should have anticipated concerns about the free-phone giveaway program, no matter the justification.
One wonders what else lies buried in the 800-page bill that may give people pause.