House GOPs Warm to DREAMers in Crafting Alternate Immigration Legislation

Barrett Duke, a member of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, agreed that illegal immigrants brought here as children merit special consideration.

“These are people who did not make a conscious decision to break the nation’s immigration laws,” he said. “They were brought here as minors. This is the only life they know. It is likely that they identify more with this country and its culture than they do with the country and culture from which their parents brought them. This is their home. Our country should not hold these children accountable for the choices their parents made.”

At the Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security meeting, Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.), the panel chairwoman, said border security is an essential element of the immigration debate “so that in 10 years or 15 years we do not need to debate again and again.”

“We need to reduce the flow of people coming to this country illegally,” she said. “This includes those who sneak across the border, across the desert, and those who overstay their visas. This is more than an immigration issue; it’s a national security issue.”

Miller said she was “disappointed” in the Senate border security plan, which costs $46 billion, continues to build a border fence and almost doubles the number of border patrol agents.

“I think without outcome-based metrics, accountability or a standard for success with real teeth, the Senate bill is more of the same – it’s a Washington solution and that will not deliver results,” she said. “I do think that additional resources will be needed to achieve situational awareness, operational control of the border and enhance security at the ports of entry. But just spending additional resources without a strategy to secure the border or means to hold Department of Homeland Security accountable for a result creates conditions that are ripe for waste.”

Miller instead touted a bill, the Border Security Results Act of 2013, which passed out of the committee in May but has yet to come to the floor. The bill directs the secretary of Homeland Security to issue a report every 180 days on the status of operational control of the nation’s international borders and achieve situational awareness of those borders within two years.

“This bill is about accountability and real results because DHS’ border components must be held to account for success or failure, progress or not,” she said. “And this bill is the right way to move forward. We can and must secure the border – the American people deserve no less.”

Richard Stana, former director for homeland security and justice at the Government Accountability Office, told the subcommittee that border security requires a holistic approach.

For example, Stana said, estimates show that 40 to 50 percent of the illegal immigrant population is composed of people who entered the U.S. legally and overstayed their visa. Visa overstays are the responsibility of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, not Customs and Border Protection. But, as a result of higher priorities, ICE devotes relatively few resources to address the problem.

“To what extent might the broader illegal immigrant problem be addressed by devoting more resources to interior enforcement rather than substantially increasing the size of the Border Patrol?” Stana asked.

He also noted illegal immigrants often are drawn to the U.S. to find employment. Many eventually find jobs with employers who have come to rely on this labor pool with little likelihood of incurring fines and sanctions provided by law, again owing to ICE resource constraints and priorities.

“To what extent could additional resources applied to worksite enforcement address illegal immigration as opposed to additional resources applied to the Border Patrol?” he asked. “Achieving an appropriate balance between border and interior enforcement resources could help create a credible framework for deterring those considering illegal entry and overstay.”