Thursday, April 25, 2013

A border security bill requiring the Department of Homeland Security to report progress to Congress twice a year made its first step towards law on Wednesday.

The bill was sponsored by Austin’s Michael McCaul. A bipartisan group of Texans have joined in co-sponsoring the bill: Democrats Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston and Henry Cuellar of Laredo, and Republicans Ted Poe of Humble and Pete Olson of Sugar Land.

The bill mandates that DHS report border crossing rates, including apprehension and repeat border-crossers. DHS would also report narcotics seizures. It would examine port security in addition to border security. The reports would also analyze the use of technology in border security, including unmanned drones and improved scanning and surveillance equipment.

McCaul hailed the bill’s passage. The proposal now moves to the full Homeland Security Committee, which he chairs.

“Not knowing who is coming across our borders threatens our economic and national security,” McCaul said. “Americans have seen that promises of border security coupled with immigration reform have gone unfulfilled in the past.”

Measuring the effectiveness of border security is currently a lynchpin of the debate on comprehensive immigration reform. Earlier this week, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz questioned DHS head Janet Napolitano. Cruz said current border metrics are too subjective to be useful.

A similar bill exists in the Senate, sponsored by Texas Sen. John Cornyn.