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NDN's Take on Senate Border/Immigration Bill After First Day of Judiciary Committee Markup
From NDN’s Kristian Ramos:
“After the first day of Senate Judiciary Mark-Up, it is clear the Senate Immigration Bill (S.744) retains significant bipartisan momentum. Some smart amendments were added to the bill, but more importantly bad ones were rejected. The thoughtful bipartisan core of the bill remains intact. The adept management of this early stage of the Committee process leaves us optimistic about the bill’s passage. Some additional observations:
The Grassley amendment Extending the Higher Border Apprehension Goals To The Whole Border – The Gang of Eight Bill called for new border security targets of 100% surveillance and 90% apprehension rate of people attempting to cross the border in what are called “high traffic” corridors where most of the north-bound flow lies. Senator Chuck Grassley’s amendment #1 adopted yesterday extended that goal to the entire border.
It remains to be seen if this is a good idea. The original target appears achievable with the amount of money allocated, the time required (5 years) to achieve these goals, and taking into account where these apprehension rates are today. A December report from the Government Accountability Office reported that of the Border Patrol’s nine southwest-border sectors, five had more than 30,000 apprehensions in fiscal 2011, making them a “high traffic” corridor. Of these five, San Diego, CA had a 92% apprehension rate, El Centro, CA 91%, Tucson, AZ 87%, Laredo, TX 84 % and the Rio Grande corridor in Texas was 71%.
Given where things stand now, it seems reasonable that with the time allotted and additional resources the 5 high traffic corridors, where the overwhelming majority of the north bound flow lies, can hit the new 90% apprehension rate target. Whether it is prudent to extend that goal to areas where far fewer migrants pass, and in places that are often remote and difficult to police, is something that deserves debate in the coming months.
The Feinstein Infrastructure amendment - We were further heartened to see that Senator Diane Feinstein’s amendment #10, was adopted. This important amendment would allow the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and the Secretary of Transportation, in consultation with the governors of the States in the Southwest border region and the Northern border region to establish a grant program “to construct transportation and support infrastructure improvements at existing and new international border crossings necessary to facilitate safe, secure, and efficient cross border movement of people, motor vehicles, and cargo.”
Coupled with the far-sighted commitment in the Senate Bill to add an additional 3,500 new customs agents, the improved legislation makes a truly significant commitment to investing in expanding legal trade and travel with Mexico. As our new paper, Realizing the Strategic National Value of our Trade, Tourism and Ports of Entry with Mexico details, the economic relationship between the US and Mexico has become one of the most important in the world. In just the past 4 years, trade between US and Mexico has grown from $300 billion to $536 billion last year. Mexico is now our 3rd largest trading partner, 2nd largest export market. 23 states in the US count Mexico as their number 1 or 2 export market of all the countries in the world. The smart investments in this bill directed towards border infrastructure investment will help ensure that this explosive trade relationship continues to expand, and jobs on both sides of the border continue to be created.
Bad Amendments Rejected, A Few More Good Ones Get Through – Thankfully Senator John Cornyn’s amendment #1 and Ted Cruz’s amendment #1 calling for significant increases in US Border Patrol, and gratuitous new border triggers, were rejected.
Another positive note was the Committee's acceptance of Senator Chuck Grassley amendment #2 and Senator Jeff Flake’s amendment #2, each of which added greater oversight and accountability to the border provisions of the legislation. Finally, Senator Cornyn ‘s Amendment #6 enhances data collection and increases penalties on human trafficking.