Border Security Is National Security
By: Congressman Lamar Smith
This month, intelligence authorities uncovered a plot to blow up U.S. airplanes above the Atlantic Ocean. The thwarted plan is a chilling reminder that America is under constant threat of another terrorist attack.
Unfortunately, efforts to protect the country from terrorism are undermined by a security risk that is sitting in our own back yard - the border.
Thousands of people cross the Southern Border undetected everyday. Their intentions and whereabouts are unknown.
Congress recently held field hearings in Texas and other states to examine how the porous border impacts national security. Local law enforcement officials were invited to share their experiences. All expressed frustration with the lack of resources and attention being paid to the U.S. border.
A Val Verde County border sheriff explained the problem as a "crisis," saying, " many people whose intentions were unknown were coming into our country."
"If their intentions were to commit acts similar to or worse than what happened on September 11, 2001," he said, "then very little was being done to stop them."
A Sheriff from El Paso gave an even darker description of the situation. He warned, "Intelligence indicates that terrorist organizations are increasingly probing the U.S./Mexico border Mexican drug trafficking and human smuggling organizations use their knowledge of the border to assist terrorist cell members in their attempts to exploit the United States."
The unending flow of people into our country is a serious threat to our national safety. If we are to prevent another 9/11 we must establish complete operational control of our borders and ports.
The "Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005," (also known as the "Border Protection Act"), which was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in December, would help us accomplish this goal.
Specifically, the bill authorizes 1,000 new, full-time port of entry inspectors and 1,500 additional K-9 units over the next five years.
Since it is difficult to humanly patrol 2,000 miles of border, the bill would give law enforcement officials an extra set of eyes and ears by authorizing the use of high-tech surveillance equipment and unmanned aerial vehicles.
This legislation also makes it easier to apprehend, convict, and deport potential terrorists. Currently, people from countries other than Mexico who are caught crossing the border are released because of a lack of detention space. This bill requires mandatory detention for all illegal immigrants apprehended at U.S. land borders and authorizes the construction of new detention space.
Another problem addressed in this bill is that of human smuggling and alien gangs. These nefarious groups operate in many U.S. border towns. Not only do they pose a threat to local residents and drain resources from local law enforcement, but these groups also represent an easy target for terrorist organizations looking to establish base operations in the United States.
The "Border Protection Act" would crack down on these groups, rendering street gang members inadmissible and deportable. It also increases penalties for human smuggling by establishing mandatory minimum sentences. These provisions send the message that criminal activity will no longer be tolerated in towns along our border, which will lead to a more secure and controlled environment.
The legislation represents a crucial step forward in securing our borders and protecting the lives and property of Americans.
Our hearts go out to those who want to come to this country. We are the freest, most prosperous nation in the world. It's no surprise that America welcomes more legal immigrants than all other countries combined.
But no nation can protect its residents without knowing who is entering and why. The American people know the difference between legal immigration, which has made our country great, and illegal immigration, which threatens our homeland security.
Immigration is an emotional, sensitive, complex subject. But Americans - citizens and legal immigrants alike - have every right to secure borders and a safe homeland. And it's time we turned that right into reality.