Monday, January 26, 2015



Congress on the border
Delegation meets with ranchers and learns of security challenges
Sat, 01/24/2015 - 6:12pm

MARK.LEVY@SVHERALD.COM Texas Congressional Representative Michael McCaul addresses media Saturday on the Ladd Ranch along the United States/Mexico border in Palominas. McCaul, who brought 22 of his colleagues from across the country to tour the border, is the chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security. Ranch owner John Ladd, left, and District 2 Representative Martha McSally flank McCaul during his talk.
(CLICK on photo above, to see even more photos from this story)

PALOMINAS — After a day of round table talks with ranchers and a tour of the U.S./Mexico border in Cochise County on Saturday, a group of 21 congressional representatives have a broader view of border problems.
Initiated by newly-elected U.S. Rep. Martha McSally (R-Arizona) and U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas,) the largest group to ever come to the local border saw for themselves just what Border Patrol agents and Americans living in this area have to deal with on a daily basis.

"To hear from the ranchers first hand about the threats that come from across the border, shows the needs to secure it," said McCaul in a brief statement after the tour.
McCaul is chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security and McSally is chairperson of the subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications.

The committee on Homeland Security has proposed a bill, the Secure Our Borders First Act, that calls for the placement of more Border Patrol agents on the border, the construction of additional forward operating bases, the installation of more fencing where needed, and to begin using the latest technology in an effort to stop crime at the border, McCaul said.
"This will be the strongest border security bill ever passed by the Congress. We intend to get that bill passed next week," added McCaul. "For too long we just haven't had the political will to get that done. I feel confident that we will get this done."

McCaul said the committee asked McSally what she wanted to see in the bill.
After her discussions with ranchers, one of the main objectives the ranchers wanted to have fulfilled is to have the Border Patrol actually patrol the border. She explained that she offered an amendment to the bill that would put the Border Patrol on the border.
"We want to increase the number of forward operating bases and have a rapid reaction capability. Ideally, the illegal activity will be detected well south of the border, so that can be deterred or interpreted (intercepted) as close to the border as possible," McSally said.

Eyes in the sky are part of the technology that she wants to see used so that traffickers do not make it further inland, creating dangers that local law enforcement officer have to face. The committee wants to ensure that the Border Patrol has the necessary equipment to do their jobs.
Data gathered by federal officials shows that 44 percent of all illegal traffic coming across the border with Mexico is traveling through the Tucson sector. That figure is unacceptable to McCaul and the committee members.

"We need to see what's coming in. The threats are real. The drug cartels, the drug traffickers with drugs that poison our kids and the potential terror threats are real. It's a national security issue," emphasized McCaul. "(This is) a way to stop the bleeding. Secure this border once and for all."

He and the delegation will take back to Washington what they saw and heard and will be working to pass the bill.
Rep. Renee Ellmers, (R-District 2) of North Carolina commented, "I think that's one of the things that's so important. We're in Washington and we're talking about these issues and we're hearing different opinions. And the debate goes on. It certainly helps to come here and talk with the ranchers. We can get an idea of what will work and what won't work. It's hard to debate an issue when you haven't been there. This has been incredibly educational for me."

McSally was appreciative of the assistance of Naco ranchers Jack Ladd and John Ladd to set up meetings with ranchers from east of Nogales all the to Douglas.
John said the meeting held Sunday with border ranchers from one end of the county to the other was "way more productive."
"I think they have a better understanding of just what the border is and I'm very optimistic after today that there might be something very positive coming. We've been dealing with this for 25 years. It's time that we fix the problem," said John. "These people are smart, they listen. I'm really optimistic that we really have an opportunity to get something done."

As to just when these actions to protect the border might begin, McCaul indicated it could be by the end of the year. He thinks the bill will be fast-tracked, especially since the Senate has an identical bill proposing similar measures waiting for approval.

However, the Border Patrol Union and the Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson oppose the bill.
According to McCaul that is because they do not like Congress telling them how to do their jobs.
"We gave them time to get the job done," said McCaul sternly. "They have not gotten the job done. I believe it's time for Congress to lead. It's the first time we are going to tell them sector by sector how to get the job done with sensor surveillance, aviation, whatever we think is needed. Maybe they don't like that."

Secure Our Borders First Act
The Secure Our Borders First Act requires the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to achieve 100 percent operational control of high traffic areas of the southwest border in two years — and the entire southwest border in five years — and establishes a commission to independently verify that the border is secure.
The legislation enforces penalties on DHS political appointees if the administration does not meet the terms of the bill.
Additionally, the bill provides sector-by-sector analysis of threats and needs on the border and attaches to that the resources necessary to gain operational control. This includes the allocation of technology capabilities in each sector along the southern border, the construction and replacement of fencing and access roads, and additional flight hours.
The legislation also bolsters border security by providing Border Patrol agents access to federal lands, granting flexibility to Customs and Border Protection to relocate resources, fully funding the National Guard on the border and increasing grants funding for local law enforcement agencies who assist in securing the border.
— Congressional Committee on Homeland Security


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