The Secure our Borders First Act: Impact of HR 399 on our Communities

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The Secure our Borders First Act: Impact of HR 399 on our Communities

The “Secure Our Borders First Act” was introduced by Rep. McCaul (R-TX) on January 16, 2015. The bill prescribes how Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is to secure the border, enforces penalties if the agency fails to meet the terms of the bill (restricting travel, pay bonuses, and promotions of agents), and costs the taxpayers $10 billion. The bill raises significant concerns detailed below.  

HR 399 Turns Southern Border Communities Into Theatres of War

  • In the words of Rep. McCaul, HR 399 will allow the Department of Defense “to transfer assets from theatre of war and redeploy them to the Southwest border.” See McCaul press release Jan. 15, 2015.
  • War assets and other enforcement tools authorized by Congress could be deployed within 100 miles of the southern border, encompassing cities like San Diego, Tucson, El Paso and Brownsville (8 CFR 287.1). This 100-mile-zone is home to 15 million people and includes Disneyland, national parks, and tourist beaches.
  • Specifically, the bill authorizes Department of Defense to allocate aviation assets to Customs and Border Protection (Sec. 7). Other war assets are transferred under the Department of Defense 1033 Program.
  • The bill requires near-constant drone surveillance even though a recent DHS report has proven the drone program to be costly and ineffective (Sec. 9).
  • It also authorizes and reimburses states to deploy the deploy the National Guard (Sec. 17).

HR 399 Slows Legitimate Travel and Trade and Affects our Economy

  • The bill establishes a biometric exit data system to screen all people and cargo leaving the country through our 15 busiest airports, 15 busiest seaports and 15 busiest land ports of entry (Sec. 13).
  • The majority of the land ports affected are on the southern border with Mexico, our 2nd largest trade partner. Mexico is the top export destination for heartland states and an estimated 6 million US jobs (or 1 in every 24 workers) depend on it. See SBCC Border Briefing.

HR 399 Degrades our Natural Resources and Threatens Human Health

  • The bill grants CBP the authority to supercede the jurisdiction of other federal departments and waive ALL environmental laws on federal land within 100 miles of the southern border (Sec. 12).
  • It directs CBP to construct 425 miles of access roads, erect 27 miles of new fence, replace 64 miles of existing fence, install boat ramps and access gates, and construct 10 forward operating bases with power and water, all without regard to their impact on natural resources in places like Big Bend National Park.
  • Specifically, the bill also calls for the eradication of carrizo cane in the Rio Grande river without regard to the impact of eradication to the natural habitat, land erosion, and human health resulting from the use of pesticides and chemicals that linger in the air and settle in the river (Sec. 3).

HR 399 Fails to Address CBP’s Well Documented Abuse of Power

  • The bill increases the enforcement resources and the power of CBP without providing for a commensurate increase in oversight and accountability mechanisms sorely needed to prevent corruption and abuse.
  • The rampant abuse of power by CBP agents is well documented through government audits, media reports, and congressional inquiries. On average, one agent a day is arrested for abusing his power or violating the law. As a result, the integrity of CBP, the largest law enforcement agency in the country, is in question.
  • Oversight and accountability of border agents is an absolute must to ensuring not only national security but also the safety and well being of the families living in the Southwestern United States.  

HR 399 Deployment of Enforcement Tools by Sector

San Diego Sector

  • Subterranean surveillance and detection technologies
  • Drones
  • Maritime patrol aircraft, coastal radar surveillance, maritime signals intelligence capability
  • Aircraft detection capabilities
  • Unattended surveillance sensors
  • 7 miles additional double layer fencing
  • 7 miles road construction
  • 37 miles road maintenance

El Centro Sector

  • 5 miles fence replacement
  • 10 miles road construction

Yuma Sector

  • 3 miles fence replacement
  • 16 miles road construction

Tucson Sector

  • Increased flight hours for aerial detection, interdiction and monitoring
  • Drones
  • Tower-based surveillance technology
  • Unattended surveillance sensors
  • 10 miles double layer fencing
  • 54 miles road construction
  • 5 miles vehicle fencing replacement
  • 2 Forward Operating Base with detention space, water and power, helicopter landing zone

Big Bend Sector

  • 192 miles road construction
  • 6 miles vehicle fencing
  • 3 Forward Operating Base with detention space, water and power, helicopter landing zone

El Paso Sector

  • 2 miles fence replacement
  • 2 miles road construction
  • 1 Forward Operating Base with detention space, water and power, helicopter landing zone

Del Rio Sector

  • 41 miles road construction
  • 1,200 miles road maintenance
  • 8 boat ramps
  • 2 Forward Operating Base with detention space, water and power, helicopter landing zone

Laredo Sector

  • 26 miles road maintenance
  • 1 boat ramp
  • 2 Forward Operating Base with detention space, water and power, helicopter landing zone

RGV Sector

  • Drones
  • Unattended surveillance sensors
  • Increased monitoring for cross-river dams, culverts and pathways
  • 94 miles road maintenance
  • 21 boat ramps
  • 2 Forward Operating Base with detention space, water and power, helicopter landing zone
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