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Securing America's Borders Act

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. NELSON of Florida. Mr. President, the sole intent of this amendment is to take what the committee bill provides in enhancing border security by utilizing technology and enhancing and integrating and coordinating that technology, the use of electronic surveillance on the border to augment our border patrol, and the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, which are a much cheaper version than the military version, but you can see at night and can also see during all weather--to take that technology and integrate it and coordinate it is the intent of the amendment.

The amendment was born out of an inspector general's report of the Department of Homeland Security, as well as the GAO report on how we can use additional coordination of our technology to enhance our border security. It is as simple as that.

I am assuming that the chairman of the committee will accept this amendment because it is just a commonsense amendment. We want to secure our borders. There are so many people we can hire; therefore, we ought to augment those Border Patrol personnel to secure the borders.

Here are a couple of examples. Right now, under electronic surveillance, the signal will go off that somebody has penetrated the barrier. That signal will go to a DHS employee, who then has to activate a camera and search as to where that particular electronic sensor has gone off. That is inefficient use of personnel. We have the technology. We can integrate it so that when the electronic sensor goes off--someone has crossed the border--the cameras in that particular location can automatically go off and record the event, that event can be sent out to multiple DHS substations, and it can also be sent out into a permanent databank so that we have a permanent record of that event. That is one example.

Another example is that you have an unmanned aerial vehicle, a drone, that is flying overhead and--same thing--an event is spotted. It is a crossing of the border illegally. Right now, that event is sent back to personnel in DHS.

Both the GAO report and the inspector general's report say you ought to integrate all that. It ought to likewise--that event--be sent back to multiple DHS substations for their immediate response, and it ought to go to a permanent databank where it is recorded so that we have this vast amount of data. That is the sum and substance of the amendment.

I inquire of the Chair, is there a previous order that I was allowed to offer just this one amendment, which is No. 3220? I have a second amendment that is parallel, No. 3221. What did the previous order require?

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the Senator from Florida is entitled to offer only one amendment.

Mr. NELSON of Florida. I see. Well, then, at some point, I will then likewise be offering a second amendment, which is quite similar. I explained a bit about it yesterday.

I will simply take this opportunity, while I have the floor, to point out what that amendment does, and the committee bill has moved in the right direction. The committee bill is providing 20,000 detention beds for people who are picked up for having been illegally in the country. What happens now is that somebody comes across into America, they are here illegally, and what do you know--we don't have the detention space in which to process them. They are released. There is one part of the border where up to 90 percent of the captured illegal aliens are released after being caught by DHS. Guess what happens. They completely disappear. Only 10 percent, approximately, appear for their subsequent immigration court hearings. DHS says we don't have any space. Presently, DHS has in the range of about 10,000 detention bed facilities.

So 90 percent of captured aliens are released. The committee bill clearly is a step in the right direction. What they have done is doubled that to 20,000 beds. What my amendment would do is say let's be realistic: 20,000 beds is not going to cut it, and you are going to continue on this practice of finding an illegal alien and DHS is going to be required then to release them into American society, and they are not going to turn up again. We simply have to stop this.

My amendment is going to provide an additional 20,000 beds a year for 5 years or, in other words, to get us to the point after 5 years that instead of having 20,000 detention beds, we will have 100,000 detention beds and be able to meet this problem and stop releasing illegal aliens right back into society.

At the appropriate point, I will be offering amendment No. 3221.

Mr. President, I thank you for the opportunity to speak, and I yield the floor.

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