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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Location: Washington, DC



By Mr. NELSON of Florida:

S. 2391. A bill to improve the security of the United States borders and for other purposes; to the Committee on the Judiciary.

Mr. NELSON of Florida. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce a critically important bill for our national security and our immigration system. My bill is called the Border Operations Reform and Development of Electronic Remote Surveillance Act of 2006--otherwise known as the BORDERS Act. Getting control over our Nation's borders is an indispensable part of comprehensive immigration reform.

The Government of the United States has the obligation to protect its citizens and to provide for homeland security by having control of its international borders. Yet, as we all know, our borders with Mexico and Canada are broken. Recognizing the dangerous situation that this presents, the bipartisan 9/11 Commission strongly recommended that the United States get operational control of its borders.

Because our Government has not succeeded in adequately securing our borders, millions of undocumented aliens have crossed into our country without our Government's permission. Despite our best efforts to have an orderly system of immigration and to control who enters the United States, it's simply not working.

Comprehensive immigration reform demands that we find aggressive, practical, and cost-effective methods to quickly secure our borders. The BORDERS Act of 2006 does exactly that, building on recent reports by the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security, as well as the Government Accountability Office.

Let me briefly summarize the BORDERS Act of 2006 and explain why this bill is so important to our national security.

First, and most importantly, this bill requires the Department of Homeland Security to implement state-of-the-art surveillance technology programs to build an integrated ``virtual fence'' at our borders. These programs would use unmanned aerial vehicles--like the type already used by our military in combat zones--to monitor remote border locations.

These surveillance programs also would use a host of other technologies--like cameras, sensors, satellites, and radar--to patrol every inch of our United States borders. Right now, our Government has the capability to use these technologies and has tried to build a virtual fence. But the one major problem is that the current surveillance program uses components that are not fully integrated and automated.

For example, as the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security recently recommended, a virtual fence must use sensors that automatically activate a corresponding camera to focus itself on the direction of the triggered sensor. If someone if sneaking across our border and trips a sensor, I want the closest camera to automatically focus on the person sneaking in. And then I want the camera to send images to multiple border personnel at different locations, who can immediately dispatch the closest Border Patrol agents to capture the person. That's what my bill does: provides for an integrated, automated virtual fence that will allow our Border Patrol agents to apprehend anyone trying to sneak into the United States.

The BORDERS Act also requires the Department of Homeland Security to greatly increase its detention facilities. Right now, the border patrol is sometimes able to capture illegal aliens sneaking into the country, but we simply lack enough facilities to detain them. In some border areas, up to 90 percent of captured aliens are released, and only 10 percent of them show up for their immigration court hearing. Does that make sense?

If our Government cannot detain illegal aliens who are caught, we lose our ability to make them report to their immigration proceedings. We never hear from them again. Thus, this bill instructs the Department of Homeland Security to increase its detention space by 20,000 beds for the next 5 years. The bill also instructs the Department to devise other ways to monitor illegal aliens who are captured, such as using ankle bracelets that can remotely track aliens.

Moreover, the BORDERS Act recognizes that our Government simply lacks the personnel manpower to effectively enforce our immigration laws and secure our borders. Therefore, the bill authorizes the addition of thousands of critical Federal jobs, ranging from Border Patrol agents to investigators to detention officers. And the bill requires that these personnel receive crucial training in matters like detecting fraudulent documents.

Another important section of this bill recognizes that in order for our detention mechanisms to function effectively, we need uniform detention standards. The BORDERS Act requires the Department of Homeland Security to implement standard operating rules so that costs are minimized and all detained aliens are treated fairly and humanely. I want to note that this bill contains a section specifically designed to ensure that detained alien children are treated properly while in U.S. custody. Children are the most vulnerable of illegal aliens, and especially when they are separated from their parents, we must ensure their safety.

Finally, the BORDERS Act of 2006 authorizes the Federal Government to reimburse States that incur the financial burden of detaining illegal aliens. It is unfair of us to expect the States to shoulder this huge cost by themselves.

Again, let me stress that border security is just one aspect of comprehensive immigration reform. I also will support legislation to address the status of undocumented aliens currently in the United States, if--and only if--such legislation is fair, humane, and recognizes the role that undocumented workers currently play in our nation's economy.

But border security is a policy area that should find wide agreement--across both parties. By setting up a cutting-edge, integrated ``virtual fence,'' and by building more detention centers, I believe that the United States can take a giant step forward in its quest to get control of our borders. In this post-9/11 world, our national security simply demands it.

I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the RECORD.

There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

S. 2391


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