March 24, 2014, 01:36 pm

House GOP to weigh in on border security

By Pete Kasperowicz

House Republicans are making a push to authorize key border security functions of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), giving members a chance to weigh in on controversial issues such as deportation policy and border security.

It will also be the first formal authorization of these programs since the department was created in 2002, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.) has introduced legislation to authorize Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Miller, who chairs the Homeland Security subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, is also planning a third bill authorizing the U.S. Coast Guard.

House aides say the bills are expected to move this year, and Miller's subcommittee is expected to discuss these proposals at an April 8 hearing.

Aides said moving new authorizing legislation through Congress will allow members to fine-tune the agencies as the bills move to the floor. Some of these issues could lead to disputes between the parties, as they've been battling over ways to balance immigration and border enforcement.

For example, Miller's ICE authorization bill, H.R. 4279, was introduced last week. It will give Congress an opportunity to authorize ICE's functions, including its deportation policy.

The broad issue of deportation has heated up over the last few months, as Republicans have said they don't trust President Obama to enforce immigration laws. In contrast, Democrats have complained that Obama has deported more immigrants than other recent presidents — complaints that led Obama to declare he would review deportation policy.

So far, however, her ICE bill has bipartisan support. It's being co-sponsored by House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and Henry Cuellar (D-Texas).

Miller proposed her CBP bill back in January, and indicated that it too would be used to ensure CBP is able to protect the border.

"The Congress must ensure that we provide CBP with the tools needed to secure the border," she said. "This is why we must update our current laws as we seek to gain operational control of our borders."

When the DHS was created, border security and customs duties were not put into the same agency. But Miller's CBP Authorization Act, H.R. 3846, formally authorizes CBP's customs and border security functions, including the Office of Border Control and the CBP's Office of Intelligence.