H.R. 3548, the Border Security for America Act, overcame its first hurdle last week after it was approved by the US House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee.
The legislation was introduced last July by the chairman of that committee, Representative Michael McCaul, a Republican of Texas.
The legislation calls for building additional physical barriers at the border, including a wall at the Unites States border with Mexico and also funds a surge in personnel. The bill targets illegal immigration and drug and human trafficking ports of entry and identifies visa overstays through full deployment of the Biometric Entry-Exit System. It also supports local law enforcement through increases in resources to aggressively fight crimes on the southern border.
“Illegal immigrants, smugglers, and drug cartels continue to infiltrate our country so we must quickly secure the homeland through infrastructure, technology, and personnel,” said McCaul. “We are talking about a historic, multi-layered defense system that makes it nearly impossible for bad actors to slip through the cracks. We must have physical barriers—including a wall where necessary and fencing when appropriate, the right technology, and more personnel in place to enforce our laws and detain those attempting to enter illegally.”
Some experts disagree with that assessment. Brookings fellow Vanda Felbab-Brown argues that the proposed wall will not prevent smuggling, reduce violent crime, nor provide economic security to the United States.
The bill provides $10 billion for the deployment and construction of tactical infrastructure and technology to achieve full operational control and situational awareness. This deployment includes wall, fencing, technology, air assets, and other barriers.
The legislation also provides $5 billion to improve, modernize, and enhance ports and targets illegal immigration and drug trafficking.
The measure would also add 5,000 Border Patrol Agents and 5,000 Customs and Border Protection officers and streamlines how veterans and existing law enforcement officers can be hired. It authorizes use of the National Guard along the southern border to help with aviation and intelligence support and allows for $35 million in reimbursement for states that have called out the National Guard to help secure the border.
The bill doubles the Stonegarden grant program at $110 million for state and local law enforcement to fight drug trafficking, smuggling, and other crimes on the southern border.
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