Washington, D.C. - Today, nine U.S. Senators wrote a letter to President Bush urging him to fulfill the border security provisions listed in the Senate immigration bill whether the legislation passes or not. Each border security trigger in the bill can be implemented under current law without any need for new legislation from Congress. The text of the letter is below:
Dear Mr. President:
We respectfully ask that your Administration enforce the border security laws that have already been authorized by Congress regardless of whether the Senate passes the immigration reform bill. The bill assumes that several critical border security benchmarks can be achieved within 18 months. These security triggers are already authorized under current law and can be completed without the immigration bill. We believe these enforcement measures are vital and should not wait until Congress passes additional immigration reforms.
Securing the border is the best way to restore trust with the American people and facilitate future improvements of our immigration policy.
U.S. Senators Jim DeMint (R – South Carolina), Tom Coburn (R – Oklahoma), Mike Enzi (R – Wyoming), David Vitter (R – Louisiana), Jim Inhofe (R – Oklahoma), Jim Bunning (R – Kentucky), Charles Grassley (R – Iowa), John Ensign (R – Nevada) and Jeff Sessions (R – Alabama).
The Senate immigration bill calls for the following security benchmarks to be completed as a “trigger” before other parts of the bill go into effect. Bill proponents claim these provisions can be implemented within 18 months. All of them can be implemented under current law:
• Bill Trigger #1 – 18,000 agents border patrol agents;
--- This is already scheduled under current law: Customs and Border Patrol Press Release 8/4/2007: “In May, President Bush announced his commitment to hire an additional 6,000 agents by the end of 2008, bringing the Border Patrol’s total strength to 18,000 agents.”
• Bill Trigger #2 – 200 miles of vehicle barriers, 370 miles of fencing, and 70 ground-based radar and camera towers, and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles;
--- This requires less than is already required under current law. The Secure Fence Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bush in 2006, already requires 700 miles of two-layered reinforced fencing along Southwest border, mandates DHS achieve operational control over entire border through “virtual fence” that deploys cameras, ground sensors, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, and integrated surveillance technology.
• Bill Trigger #3 – End “catch and release” and provide ICE 27,500 beds for immigration detainees;
--- According to DHS, both of these triggers have already been accomplished. DHS Press Release 10/30/2006: “Ended ‘Catch-and-Release’ Along the Borders: In 2006, the Department of Homeland Security and ICE re-engineered the detention and removal process to end this practice along the border… ICE also increased its detention bed space by 6,300 during the fiscal year 2006, bringing the current number of funded beds to 27,500 immigration detainees.”
• Bill Trigger #4 – Secure identification documents with photo and biometric information and operational employment verification system to determine work eligibility
--- The REAL ID Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bush in 2005, already requires secure identification documents with photo and biometric information.
--- The Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2007, passed by Congress and signed into law in 2006, already provides $113 million to fully expand the Basic Pilot / Employment Eligibility Verification (EEV) system to be a national employment database.
Other Border Security Provisions of Current Law
• Achieve and maintain operational control over the entire international land and maritime borders of the United States as required under the Secure Fence Act of 2006 (Public Law 109-367)
• Fully integrate all databases maintained by DHS which contain information on aliens as required by section 202 of the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002 (8 U.S.C. 1722).
• Fully implement US-VISIT program to record the departure of every alien departing the United States and match records of departure with the records of arrivals in the United States as required by section 110 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (8 U.S.C. 1221 note).
• Enforce the provision of law that prevents States and localities from adopting ``sanctuary'' policies or that prevents State and local employees from communicating with DHS as required by section 642 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (8 U.S.C. 1373).
• Fully operational equipment at each port of entry and uses such equipment in a manner that allows unique biometric identifiers to be compared and visas, travel documents, passports, and other documents authenticated in accordance with section 303 of the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002 (8 U.S.C. 1732).
• An alien with a border crossing card is prevented from entering the United States until the biometric identifier on the border crossing card is matched against the alien as required by section 101(a)(6) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(6)).
• Any alien who is likely to become a public charge is denied entry into the United States pursuant to section 212(a)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(4)).