Texans know it is long past time to secure our borders. Failed policies of the past have allowed millions of illegal immigrants, traffickers, and violent criminals to gain access to our great state and ultimately the United States. This has left Americans – and Texans in particular – vulnerable to the types of tragedies that we have become increasingly familiar with, such as the murder of Kate Steinle, a young woman gunned down by an undocumented immigrant who illegally entered the U.S. on five separate occasions.
The recent tragedy in San Antonio, Texas this summer, which resulted in the death of nine migrants, highlights the porous nature of our border and the horrible reality that can come from not properly securing it. As Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee and a fourth generation Texan, I feel an increased responsibility to secure and protect our borders while simultaneously strengthening and enforcing our immigration laws. That is why I introduced H.R. 3548, the Border Security for America Act.
This bill will effectively secure our border and includes the three key elements I believe are necessary to achieve this goal: infrastructure – including a wall and fencing where appropriate, state-of-the-art technology, and more law enforcement personnel. I am proposing a historic, multi-layered defense system that makes it nearly impossible for bad actors to slip through the cracks.
Most notably, my bill provides the Secretary of Homeland Security with the authorization to build physical barriers along our borders including a wall, concrete levees, and fencing where the Secretary deems necessary. It also provides $15 billion for the deployment of tactical infrastructure, technology, and other measures to achieve full operational control and situational awareness so we know who is crossing and when.
In addition, H.R. 3548 includes an increase in the number of Border Patrol Agents and U.S. Customs Officers to improve and modernize security at our ports of entry by targeting illegal immigration and drug trafficking at these locations, while increasing lawful trade and travel. Not only does my bill authorize an increase, but it will also streamline the way veterans and local law enforcement officers are hired. This will eliminate redundancies in background investigations and help reduce the time it takes to hire more brave men and women into our Border Patrol.
Lastly, I want to highlight another aspect of my bill that will specifically benefit Texas. The Border Security for America Act authorizes both the deployment of the National Guard to assist in border security efforts and the Secretary of Homeland Security to reimburse Texas up to $35 million per year, as well as any other border states who qualify, for the border security activities they have performed. Border security is a federal responsibility and Texans should not bear this fiscal burden alone.
Earlier this year, I joined Speaker Ryan on his first tour of the Rio Grande Valley border to examine the challenges we face there. The Speaker has made clear that Congress is committed to securing the border.
I am encouraged by the support my bill has received and look forward to moving it through my committee this fall. It is my hope that we will move quickly and bring the Border Security for America Act to the House floor for a vote so we can finally secure our border once and for all. Make no mistake, our porous border is a national security threat, and Texans want, need, and deserve better.