Border security big issue
Published 12:35 pm Monday, September 18, 2006
One issue receiving a great deal of attention is border security. Our nation's porous borders and the lax enforcement of our immigration laws have become a significant threat to our national security.
Prior to the attacks of September 11, 2001, border security was not considered a national security issue. As the 9/11 Commission noted, Neither the State Department's consular officers nor the Immigration and Naturalization Service's inspectors and agents were ever considered full partners in a national counterterrorism effort. Protecting borders was not a national security issue before 9/11.
We now know that if stricter immigration laws had been in effect prior to September 11, 2001, some of the hijackers might never have entered this country, and others might have been deported for immigration violations.
Over the last five years, it has become increasingly apparent that border security does not only affect the border states illegal immigration and porous borders endanger every community.
The House of Representatives has worked hard to pass legislation to tighten our immigration laws and border security system to prevent terrorists and other criminals from entering our country.
One of the most important of these bills the REAL ID Act was signed into law last May. This legislation established uniform standards for state-issued drivers' licenses and identification cards. Applicants for state identification cards must now present proof they are here legally. Identity documents now also expire at the same time as legal entry status, preventing illegal valid identification cards.
Earlier this year, the Senate passed its own immigration bill (S. 2454); however, it is markedly different from the House bill. It goes so far as to reward illegal immigrants with everything from Social Security benefits to in-state college tuition. There is little hope that the House and Senate versions will be reconciled by the conference committee before the end of this Congress.
As illegal immigrants continue to flood across our borders and take up residence in the United States, it's clear more must be done. Many of the 11 million illegal immigrants who are already here have burdened our health care institutions, education systems, and welfare programs, while others are not contributing to the betterment of our society, not learning English, not assimilating into our communities, and not paying taxes.
Last month, I went to the Texas-Mexico border to witness how the flood of illegal immigrants is affecting our society and talk to the people who deal with the problem of illegal immigration every day.
Also, during August, members of the House held more than 20 border security field hearings at various sites along our border. They heard testimony regarding drug cartels, illegal alien smuggling rings and gang activity operating on the sides of our border with Mexico. It is apparent that our southern border is in a state of crisis, and it is in need of infrastructure.
U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner represents Alabama in the U.S. House of Representatives.
To address these dire conditions, the House last week passed the Secure Fence Act of 2006, H.R. 6061, by a vote of 283-138-1, which would provide for over 700 miles of two-layered reinforced fencing along the southwest border.
Building a fence along portions of our southern border is a commonsense deterrent with proven effectiveness. In 1996, Congress mandated the construction of a 14-mile fence along the San Diego-Mexico border. Apprehensions of illegal aliens dropped from approximately 200,000 in 1992 to about 9,000 in 2005. Crime rates also dropped by 47 percent since the fence was constructed.
The Secure Fence Act also employs state-of-the-art technology to develop a “virtual fence” using cameras, ground sensors, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), and integrated surveillance technology.
Similar to the authority vested in the United States Coast Guard for apprehending fleeing maritime vessels, border personnel would now be granted the authority to disable fleeing vehicles.
Our current immigration system must work quicker, more efficiently, and in a manner that does not compromise national security. The Secure Fence Act is an important step towards making that happen.
My staff and I work for you. If we can ever be of service, do not hesitate to call my office toll free at 1-800-288-8721 or visit my website http://bonner.house.gov.