A border bill introduced by House Homeland Security Committee chairman Rep. Mike McCaul (R-TX) has less than 50 miles of border fencing because McCaul thinks it would cost American taxpayers too much to secure the whole border, McCaul aides tell Breitbart News.
“Fencing is expensive, and when you talk to folks on the ground, like we did this week, they say they just don’t need it,” a Homeland Security Committee aide told Breitbart News in an email when asked about the deficiency of fencing in the bill. “Some areas they do, most they don’t. Fencing alone doesn’t solve the problem, [because] even in areas of double fencing they drive through/cut through and if you don’t have visibility from the sky, and agents, its useless. This bill seeks to give each sector what the stakeholders need, [because] each sector is unique in terrain and traffic volume.”
McCaul has called his bill the “strongest” border security measure ever introduced in the history of the United States Congress, but the revelation that he thinks—according to his committee—that building a double-layer fence along the full border is too expensive undercuts that notion. In addition, committee materials that were distributed to House Republicans in an effort to win their support for the bill contain provably false information—specifically a claim that there are already 652 miles of double-layer fencing, of the 700 miles required by law, built on the U.S. border with Mexico.
Current law, under the Secure Fence Act which passed Congress in 2006 with wide support (even then-senators Barack Obama and Joe Biden voted for it), requires 700 miles of double-layer fencing along the U.S. Border with Mexico. The U.S. Border with Mexico is 1,989 miles long, according to Customs and Border Protection (CBP), an agency of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Numbers USA director of government relations Rosemary Jenks, in a phone interview before the bill’s mark-up last Wednesday, told Breitbart News that she’s shocked McCaul wouldn’t aim to complete the double-layer fencing as required by current law.
I was stunned when I saw they were only requiring 27 miles of double layer fencing. The original bill had just 27 miles of fencing. As amended, the new bill—which is headed to the House Rules Committee soon, and to the House floor as soon as House GOP leadership can rush it up for a vote shortly thereafter—has just 48 miles of double-layer fencing. The Secure Fence Act requires 700 miles of double layer fencing. Why they don’t just require the administration to implement that law is beyond me.
The bill was supposed to be in the House Rules Committee on Monday night, but due to inclement weather in Washington, D.C., House GOP leadership has delayed consideration of the bill. However, the bill is not on the schedule distributed by the House Majority Leader’s office for the rest of the week. A Homeland Security Committee aide confirmed the delay to Breitbart News, but didn’t know when the bill would be reconsidered. A Rules Committee aide said the committee is subject to the call of the chair, which means nobody knows when the bill will be taken back up.
Before the delay was announced by House GOP leadership a spokeswoman for the House Rules Committee refused to provide answers from Committee Chairman Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) to several questions about the details of the bill.
“This evening the Rules Committee will carefully review all amendments submitted to the legislation and the Chair can make recommendations as to which amendments are made in order, but ultimately this is a decision made by the entire Committee,” the spokeswoman said in a Monday morning email before the delay was announced, while not answering any questions about the lack of border fencing or the lack of interior enforcement provisions in the legislation—concerns raised by Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA) and newly seated Senate Immigration Subcommittee chairman Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL).
There are still hundreds of miles of that 700 miles of double layer fencing required by current law that haven’t been built. But in talking points the Homeland Security Committee has been distributing secretly to House Republican offices—with the help of the Republican leadership—they claim that the 48 miles of double-layer fencing the amended McCaul bill has would meet the full 700-mile requirement of the Secure Fence Act.
“As amended, the bill requires the 48 miles of double-layer fence to complete the 700 miles of fencing required under current law,” the McCaul talking points document distributed to unsuspecting House Republican offices, since obtained by Breitbart News, reads.
In the document, McCaul’s committee actually counts vehicle barriers that fully allow illegal aliens to walk right through from Mexico into the United States as if they were part of hundreds of miles of the double-layer fencing. It also counts weaker single-layer fencing—called “pedestrian fence” in the talking points document—as double-layer fencing, which just isn’t accurate.
“[W]e only have 652 miles of the 700 miles of fence required by current law,” McCaul’s committee staff wrote in the talking points. “Of that, 353.8 miles is pedestrian fence and the remainder, 299.8 miles, is made up of vehicle barriers. The Secure Our Borders First Act completes the 700 miles of fencing.”
Jessica Vaughan, a Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) immigration expert and former U.S. State Department official, wrote in an analysis that the McCaul bill as amended would leave more than 600 miles of the required double-layer fencing undone.
“The main change to the bill made in the committee mark-up process was to increase the number of miles of new double fencing from 27 to 48, adding an additional ten miles in the Del Rio sector and another mile in the Tucson sector,” Vaughan wrote. “This would bring the total length of double fencing up to 84 miles (over 600 miles less than the 700 miles mandated by the Secure Fence Act of 2006).”
The Homeland Security Committee talking points document specifically lays out where the 48 new miles of double layer fencing would be. It says 7 miles of it would be in the San Diego sector, 21 miles in the Tucson sector, 10 miles in the Rio Grande Valley sector and 10 miles in the Del Rio sector.
The fence, though, is hardly the only hole in McCaul’s border bill. The biggest hole it has is that the bill wouldn’t stop illegal immigration. Instead, as Sen. Sessions and Rep. Brat have argued, the bill would ensure that any extra resources it sends to the border would be used by the Obama administration to further its current immigration polices of catch-and-release and not deporting of illegal aliens upon their crossing of the border.
Tea Party Patriots is calling on House Republicans to amend the McCaul bill so as it does include interior enforcement, something McCaul’s team has originally resisted claiming they don’t have the jurisdiction to do so.
“For whatever reason, the Homeland Security Committee was in a hurry,” Tea Party Patriots spokesman Kevin Broughton told Breitbart News.
Now, our focus will be amending this legislation which is sorely lacking any meaningful teeth. The House — with a smaller GOP Conference than it has now — passed the Carter-Aderholt “border surge” bill last summer. If the GOP is truly committed to regular order and a transparent process, then amending HR 399 with provisions from Carter-Aderholt shouldn’t be a problem. Republicans who ran on stopping amnesty and securing the border now have their chance. The grassroots will shortly be in contact, demanding an end to catch-and-release; an expedited removal process; closure of asylum loopholes; and a real, 700-mile double fence, not the 27 miles the McCaul bill provides.
Jenks’ Numbers USA is calling for an amendment to the bill that would block the funding for Obama’s executive amnesty—language that has already passed the House of Representatives.
“Numbers USA firmly believes that the first order of immigration business this Congress is to defund the executive amnesty. So everything they do on immigration should include the defund language they passed on the DHS appropriations bill,” Jenks said in her phone interview. “In anything on immigration. Their first job is not done until they have defunded the executive amnesty.”
McCaul’s committee aides admitted to Breitbart News that his bill doesn’t stop illegal immigration—therefore doesn’t actually secure the border from future illegal immigration—because it lacks interior enforcement. They even said that interior enforcement and extra measures on the physical border are dependent upon each other to actually get the job done.
“Chairman McCaul supports interior enforcement,” one McCaul aide said during a lengthy phone interview with Breitbart News. “He understands that’s a critical part of this larger problem. To really tackle the problem, you need both border security and interior enforcement. They’re not mutually exclusive in Chairman McCaul’s view.”
At first, the committee aides argued that McCaul’s bill couldn’t handle the interior enforcement angle of immigration matters because interior enforcement falls under the jurisdiction of the House Judiciary Committee, rather than McCaul’s committee.
“What I would say to you in terms of the jurisdictional issues first is that the Homeland Security Committee has a very narrow slice of jurisdiction in this area from a big picture standpoint and that narrow slice is only border security angle,” one Homeland Security Committee aide told Breitbart News in a lengthy phone interview on the day of the mark-up of the bill last week. “So basically, at the point where Border Patrol agents turn those apprehended over to ICE for processing, that’s where the Homeland Security Committee jurisdiction ends. That’s where it becomes an interior enforcement piece. Anything dealing with immigration laws and immigration policy would not be the jurisdiction of the Homeland Security Committee.”
When asked in the phone interview why the Department of Homeland Security doesn’t report to the Homeland Security committee, the McCaul aide explained that is because of a jurisdictional turf war between different committees when the relatively new Homeland Security Committee was created.
Unfortunately, the reason why that’s the case is because when the Congress created the Homeland Security Committee after the Homeland Security Act was passed, it divvied up the jurisdiction in arbitrary ways. Obviously, there’s a lot of congressional turf battles involved and people didn’t want to play nice. This is the compromise that was hashed out. It’s imperfect, and it’s not the way that we would certainly would like it from an institutional standpoint. But the jurisdiction is pretty bifurcated.
What the aide said here is true: Technically speaking, it is House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) who has jurisdiction over interior enforcement matters. But originally, they took that point a step further to argue that McCaul’s bill couldn’t have interior enforcement provisions added in via the amendment process.
“I just want to reiterate that everything you’re saying, we agree with,” a second committee aide said on the phone call when asked by Breitbart News why they didn’t include the interior enforcement language in the bill. “We’re right there with you on this. We’re just doing our piece of the puzzle. Chairman McCaul has actually been talking about this jurisdictional issue for a while. Like a long time. He’s bringing this up with leadership, and trying to fix this issue with the committees. We’re right there with you. We agree. This is ridiculous.”
But when later asked in a follow up email if they could include the interior enforcement amendment that Tea Party Patriots is calling for or the defunding amendment that would stop Obama’s executive amnesty that Numbers USA is calling for, one McCaul committee aide admitted that yes, Boehner and the rest of GOP leadership could if they wanted to.
“Leadership could add that theoretically, but the conference has said they want targeted bills to go through regular order, not large, comprehensive bills that congress sucks at,” the aide said. “This bill stays in the lanes of jurisdiction and plays by the rules, which is what conservatives have said time and again that they want.”
Jenks continued by noting that the mere title of the legislation—the “Secure Our Borders First Act”—means that members who vote for it are all promising to not take up any legislation in this Congress or the next one dealing with guest worker programs including H-1B visas, or legalization of illegal aliens, because the bill takes at least five years to secure the border:
I think that when members of the House decide how they’re going to vote on this bill they need to recognize that this bill says very clearly that there can be no legalization talk and no guest worker talk for five to seven years. Because, obviously, you have to have a secure border before we can talk about legalization or a guest worker surge—otherwise you end up with the border crisis we had last summer. And you have to have a functioning biometric entry-exit system before you can have any kinds of reforms of guest worker programs because that’s the only way we know for sure a guest worker leaves when they are actually supposed to.
When asked if any Republican who votes for this bill is therefore making a promise that, until the border is secured five to seven years after this bill would become law they wouldn’t even discuss or consider any bill on any guest worker program, H-1B visas, or legal status for illegal aliens, Jenks said: “absolutely.”
“There is no question that there will be a clear expectation that members who support this bill are saying that they understand there can be no amnesty and no guest worker discussions for five to seven years,” Jenks continued. “They need to recognize that up front because groups like Numbers USA are going to do everything in our power to hold them to those promises.”
The House Homeland Security Committee and McCaul agreed with Jenks, the aides told Breitbart News, when asked on the phone about if the chairman thinks a vote for his bill is a vote to promise no legal status for illegal aliens for at least five years and no guest worker programs for at least five years.
The exact question Breitbart News asked McCaul’s committee aides is:
As for the specific title of the bill, the bill says in the title “First.” And I don’t have the exact title in front of me, but I know the word “first” is in there. “Secure the Border First” or something, right? So that’s Chairman McCaul saying that the border must be secured before the House—and any Republican who votes for his bill, right?—that the border must be secured in conjunction with the interior enforcement policies that would actually stop illegal immigration because his bill won’t stop illegal immigration before they consider any kind of guest worker program or any H-1B increases? That’s what Chairman McCaul is telling the Republican Party, right? That every Republican who votes for his bill is in essence voting against any efforts by Republican leadership in both the House or the Senate to bring up any legalization bill for illegal aliens in the country right now—and any other type of immigration bill, for instance an increase in H-1Bs, which as you I’m sure would admit would hurt American workers who can’t find jobs, and so on and so forth, right down to any other changes in immigration policy? I mean, that’s what you’re saying right?
In response, McCaul’s committee aide said that he agrees with everything Breitbart News said in that question.
“I don’t want you to read too much into the bill title just because like I said before that’s what people say when they can relate to that, secure our border first,” McCaul’s aide said. “But I would think that McCaul agrees with everything you just said.”
In the phone conversation, McCaul’s team originally attempted to argue that the bill secured the border immediately—but then admitted the border wouldn’t be secured for at least five years because they won’t have “operational control” for at least five years. In essence, McCaul’s team admitted that the chairman believes anyone voting for his bill is making the promise that Jenks laid out—that they are voting to ensure Americans that until at least the 116th Congress five years from now, maybe later, they will not consider any legislation to provide legal status for illegal aliens and they will not consider any guest worker or H-1B provisions. Here’s a transcript of exactly what was said:
BREITBART NEWS: “But if Republican leadership—which as we know, the Speaker said he agrees with the president on immigration, right? The Speaker wants to give amnesty to all the illegal aliens in the country. And the Republican leadership principles that were introduced before Eric Cantor was destroyed in a primary—they stated that they wanted to grant amnesty to illegal aliens. So when that time comes, we can expect Chairman McCaul, and he’ll expect every Republican who votes for his bill, right, to stop the Speaker from doing that, right?”
MCCAUL AIDE ONE: “We can’t speculate as to the motives of the Speaker.”
BREITBART NEWS: “It’s not speculation. The Speaker said he’s going to do it.”
MCCAUL AIDE TWO: “Yeah, I think that’s kind of out of our range of what we can talk about here with you. Our focus here is just on Chairman McCaul’s authority which is just at this point to secure our borders first. He doesn’t support amnesty. And he wants to see this bill passed and see the first correct steps.”
BREITBART NEWS: “Right, but if the bill—if and when as we fully expect will happen, because the Speaker said that he wants to do it as have many other Republican members, will introduce a legalization bill for illegal aliens—legalization is amnesty, it [amnesty] doesn’t mean citizenship, citizenship is an extra thing in addition to amnesty—when that comes, right, when that time comes and it will come this Congress, so maybe not speaking for the rest of Republicans but speaking for Chairman McCaul, Chairman McCaul will oppose Speaker Boehner in his efforts to legalize illegal aliens right? That’s what he’s saying with this bill, because this bill doesn’t actually secure the border for at least five years, right?”
MCCAUL AIDE TWO: “No, it does. I think you’re misinterpreting the five-year mark. That’s really just so they can implement the assets in that way. So I don’t want you to read too much into the five-year thing. We’re just saying to have 100 percent operational control within five years. But a lot of it will be implemented immediately.”
BREITBART NEWS: “But until you have operational control, the border is not secure, right?”
MCCAUL AIDE TWO: “Yes.”
BREITBART NEWS: “So that’s when the border is secure, and it takes five years to get operational control?”
MCCAUL AIDE TWO: “Yeah.”
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