The ostensible plan to guarantee border security that was part of the Gang of Eight’s immigration reform proposal isn’t turning out to be what its sponsors promised.
Pro-reform Republicans pledged that if border security had not increased in five years to the point where the border was completely under surveillance and 90 percent of the illegal immigrants attempting to cross were apprehended, a commission would be created called the Southern Border Security Commission. This commission would supposedly have the legal authority to make policy to deal with the problem.
One source had told Byron York of the Washington Examiner:
Five years after the notice of commencement, you will have to have achieved 100 percent situational awareness and 90 percent apprehension in all nine sectors of the border. If that metric has not been achieved after the first five years, the Border Commission goes from being an advisory panel to a policy-making one. We have set money aside in escrow for the Border Commission to come up with a supplemental plan to meet that metric of 90 percent and 100 percent. That happens after five years.
But according to the actual proposal, the commission will have six months to write a report “setting forth specific recommendations for policies for achieving and maintaining the border security goals [specified in the bill].” That report would include “recommendations for the personnel, infrastructure, technology, and other resources required to achieve and maintain [those goals].” The next step would be for the head of the Government Accountability Office to review the report to determine its feasibility and cost.
That report represents the totality of the Commission’s function. The proposal states, “The Commission shall terminate 30 days after the date on which the report is submitted.”
So where in the bill is there any language about the commission making policy? Nowhere.
The bill asserts that “money set aside in escrow” ($2 billion) will be held for the commission and its plan to be made available to the Secretary of Homeland Security “to carry out programs, projects, and activities recommended by the Commission.” But there is no statement that the Secretary has to do anything.
“If, in five years, the plan has not reached 100 percent awareness and 90 percent apprehension, the Department of Homeland Security will lose control of the issue and it will be turned over to the border governors to finish the job,” Marco Rubio said. “Which is not a Washington commission, made up of congressmen or bureaucrats. It’s largely led by the border state governors, who have a vested local interest in ensuring that that border is secure.”
Of course, the Commission will have ten members, comprised of:
- Two appointed by the president.
- One chosen by the Majority Leader of the Senate
- One chosen by the Minority Leader. (In practice, both will be appointed by the President pro tempore of the Senate.)
- One chosen by the Speaker of the House
- One chosen by the House Minority Leader.
- Finally, the other four will be either the governor or the governor’s appointee from the states of California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.
That makes six representatives chosen by D.C. and four from the border states.
Washington wins again.