House Republicans on Thursday are introducing their solution to securing the U.S. southern border, including renewal of border wall construction contracts, investment in advanced technologies and a bolstering in support for federal law enforcement officers.
The top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y., with House GOP leadership, rolled out the "Border Security for America Act of 2021," which they say would restore a Trump-era border security approach.
"Under President Biden’s weak leadership this border crisis knows no limits as every American community bears the brunt of weak border security," Katko said Thursday. "When the southwest border is lawless, it’s the fabric of all our communities that suffers. And that is unacceptable."
"Like many of my colleagues who’ve supported this legislation, we’ve been down to the southern border several times to see this crisis firsthand and hear directly from those on the front lines," Katko continued, saying this legislation "tackles key shortcomings and weaknesses we’ve seen for ourselves that are fueling the border crisis."
The bill would require the secretary of homeland security to resume construction on the border wall system "immediately" – a key component of former President Donald Trump’s border security strategy.
Republicans argued that "physical infrastructure" and "barriers" combined with "modern technologies" are needed as a "significant deterrent to those who engage in illicit activity such as drug, human and weapon smuggling and provide a conservative contrast to the reckless policies of the Biden administration."
The technology proposed by Republicans would include advanced unattended surveillance sensors, unmanned aerial vehicles and upgraded license plate readers. The bill would also establish a biometric exit data system, which they say is "critical for achieving situational awareness and operational control of the border."
The bill would also direct the secretary of homeland security to deploy "practical and effective" technology to support Customs and Border Protection and Border Patrol operations. It would require the CBP commissioner to hire and train additional CBP officers and agents to maintain an active-duty presence at all U.S. ports of entry.
Republicans argued that "critical law enforcement positions remain vacant."
The bill would also increase the number of officers for tunnel detection and remediation, agricultural specialists, K-9 units and supporting officers.
The bill calls for establishing, within the Department of Homeland Security, an "Integrated Border Enforcement Team," which Republicans say would enhance cooperation between the United States and Canada, enhance security between ports of entry, investigate violations related to border security, facilitate collaboration among components and with international partners, execute coordinated activities, and enhance information sharing.
Republicans are also proposing that DHS certify that CBP is fully compliant with the DNA Fingerprint Act of 2005 at all border facilities that process adults, including as part of a family unit, in CBP custody at the border.
The legislation is co-sponsored by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, House Republican Whip Steve Scalise, House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, and House Republican Conference Vice Chair Mike Johnson, among other GOP members.
"The Biden administration's failure to secure our southern border puts every American’s security at risk," Stefanik said. "Biden’s open border policies have been a complete disaster, causing the worst border crisis we’ve seen in over 20 years. As the number of encounters continues to rise, drugs and weapons are flooding across our southern border, and Democrats have turned their backs on our Border Patrol agents and law enforcement."
Stefanik said she is "proud to support this legislation that reinstitutes President Trump's successful border policies and invests in infrastructure, technology and support for our federal law enforcement officers."
"We know these policies work, and Biden’s negligence is dangerous to our national security," Stefanik added.
The GOP legislation comes as southwest border encounters are at their highest level in 21 years, with illegal crossings along the southern border reaching more than 1.1 million in 2021 – what Republicans say is a 362% increase from the same time last year.
"The Biden border crisis is not improving and is only getting worse as the illegal flow of drugs, weapons and people are wreaking havoc on American communities," Republicans said.
Meanwhile, the legislation also comes after the Biden administration unveiled their new strategies to address the root causes of migration from Northern Triangle countries – El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.