MISSION, Texas — Breitbart Texas’ Managing Director Brandon Darby responded to House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Michael McCaul’s (R-Texas) claim that the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) Sector is “the most wide open unprotected sector that we have on the U.S. – Mexico border.” Darby said, “He’s dead wrong about the RGV sector. In fact, he’s substantially wrong about his border security approach across the board.”
“Breitbart Texas has spent considerable time in each of the nine sectors on the U.S. border with Mexico,” Darby explained. “The Laredo Sector is much more open and under-secured than the RGV Sector. The same is true for the Del Rio and the Big Bend Sectors. Parts of the Tucson Sector are mountainous and frighteningly wide open. This politician is either woefully uninformed or he is just grandstanding — as many politicians have done regarding the RGV Sector.”
McCaul’s comments came at the conclusion of a Congressional delegation’s tour of the RGV Sector of the Texas border on Sunday. This sector has been one of the focal points of the border security debate. The issue of border security was recently reinvigorated with the filing of the Secure Our Borders First Act.
The delegation rode in armored boats along the banks of the Rio Grande, guarded by Texas Rangers and U.S. Border Patrol agents. They docked in Anzalduas Park, a local attraction that became famous as the entry point for thousands of illegal immigrants and unaccompanied minors from Central America. These immigrants would turn themselves in to authorities hoping to get processed and released with a notice to appear in court that many began erroneously calling a “permiso” or permit — though it did, in effect, result in them being allowed to stay in the United States.
“This is what I believe is the most wide open unprotected sector that we have on the U.S. – Mexico border,” said McCaul during a press conference right after the tour. The bill, as described by McCaul, is the strongest border security bill to date and claims to follow Texas’ response with the border surge of DPS troopers and the deployment of the National Guard.
“I credit the State of Texas for their response with their border surge but this is a federal responsibility and this is a federal border surge,” he said. Darby also took issue with this statement. He said, “Again, the politically-beneficial myth that Texas secured the border surfaces. The State of Texas has five border sectors. The RGV Sector is one of the five. Very little to nothing was done in the Laredo Sector that sits next door. The same is true for the Del Rio Sector, the Big Bend Sector, and the El Paso Sector. They have been wide open in many areas and Border Patrol agents risked their careers to publicly bring attention to this fact. The State of Texas did not address them, just as the federal government did not address them. They were wide open before the surge, during the surge, and they remain wide open to this day.”
According to McCaul, the bill is set to fully fund the National Guard, provide military aerostats and sensors, as well as fund additional fencing and roads. The bill also doubles the funding for grant programs such as “Stone Garden,” which gives money to local departments to place overtime officers on border security and drug interdiction details. Darby noted that Border Patrol agents routinely express concerns over not having the manpower to respond to each sensor and visual security aid they already have in place. He said, “Adding more cameras and sensors, without adding Border Patrol agents who can respond, is just ridiculous. This aspect relies upon the hope that the public is ignorant of the realities of the Southwest border. There are not enough agents. The agents in some sectors have to deal with mountains that can take a several hour commitment to climb and track aliens. The current situation is one where agents can’t work past their scheduled hours. What good would more sensors or balloons do them? Border security demands more agents and the ability for those agents to work more hours when needed — and get compensated for those hours.”
“We all know the threats of the drug cartels, the threats of the human traffickers, and the potential threat of terrorists crossing our borders into the United States,” said McCaul. “It’s a national security problem. It’s a problem that can’t wait. It’s a problem that needs to be addressed now.”
One of the new measures in the bill came after several meetings between McCaul and the top government officials in Texas who agreed that the brush created by the Carrizo cane plant, an invasive species imported from Europe to South Texas centuries ago, impedes the visibility of agents on the river and in the air. The bill calls for the eradication of the plant from the river in order to give a better view of the area to law enforcement officials.
Since filing the bill, McCaul has received criticism from left leaning news outlets, Democratic politicians, and from Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, since the bill calls for moving all available assets to the border and applies penalties for deadlines that are not met. The bill has some conservative critics as well, such as Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) and Rep. Dave Brat (R-Virginia), who think that the bill does not do enough to reform immigration policies like “catch-and-release,” or loopholes in employment laws.
Brat called McCaul’s border bill a “Trojan Horse” for amnesty in an article on Breitbart’s Big Government by Matthew Boyle. “A border security bill should do what its name suggests and this thing — the McCaul bill — still leaves enforcement in President Obama’s hands,” Brat said Thursday in a radio interview on The John Fredericks Show, a local Virginia radio program. “So is that where you want to leave authority?” Brat continued. “If you read through the bill, there’s no enforcement that really draws a stark line and does anything with folks crossing the border.”
Senator Sessions, who serves as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration, was equally critical of McCaul’s bill. He explained the bill does not secure the border.
Amid the heavy criticism, President Barack Obama is expected to oppose the bill and possibly veto it.
“He doesn’t like this bill because it’s prescriptive, it tells them how to do their job,” McCaul said in a short one-on-one interview with Breitbart Texas moments after finishing the boat ride. “They haven’t gotten the job done and now it’s time for Congress to step in and tell them how to do it and we do it in a very prescriptive way.”
Darby largely agreed with Brat. He said, “A number of federal law enforcement agencies that have traditionally been allowed to accomplish their missions without meddling from a president are now seeing their missions tainted with political considerations and micromanagement from the President’s circle. Just as the FBI is seeing their responsibilities stepped on by Homeland Security Investigations, an agency with much more direct manipulation from the President’s circle, any true border security bill must foremost keep political agendas off the backs of the men and women of the Border Patrol.” He went further and suggested that politicians “skip the Potemkin village tour” and actually allow the agents themselves to have more involvement in drafting a plan. “Shawn Moran from the National Border Patrol Council said the agents need to increase numbers by 5,000, have more training, and have better equipment themselves, gear the agents need on their persons. He has been a strong voice for the nearly 17,000 Border Patrol agents he represents and any border security bill should largely be based on the recommendations of the agents who actually risk their lives and know and understand the various circumstances of the regions they patrol.”