House delays vote on “the toughest border security bill ever”

President Barack Obama’s executive orders on immigration by refusing to pass a DHS funding bill which would support the orders, are concerned that McCaul’s border security bill could be a first step to a broader immigration initiative. “I’m always apprehensive to advance a piece of legislation that could become a vehicle for a lot of other stuff that’s not very good,” said Representative Steve King (R-Iowa), a vocal critic of immigration overhaul efforts. “I’d like to hear from (leadership), ‘What’s your strategy?’”

The National Border Patrol Council (NBPC), which represents roughly 17,000 Border Patrol agents and support personnel, announced last week its opposition to McCaul’s bill. H.R. 399 “does nothing to preclude anyone in the world from turning themselves in at the U.S. border and obtaining automatic entry and federal benefits,” said NBPC President Kenneth Palinkas in a statement released 22 January. Palinkas, who also opposes Obama’s executive actions on immigration, noted that the problem with McCaul’s bill is not that it would fail to apprehend illegal border crossers at the border, but that it lacks a procedure to process those ineligible for asylum and return them to their home countries. “Almost anyone at all can call themselves an asylum-seeker and get in; it’s a global joke. It’s not border security if anyone can recite the magic words and get waved right on in. Those who arrived in the 2014 border run are still here, often living on U.S. support and even applying for U.S. jobs,” said Palinkas.

Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama), a leading conservative critic of immigration overhaul efforts, noted that he is skeptical of the border security bill’s ability to limit Obama’s immigration plans. “No enforcement plan can be successful that does not block the president from continuing to release illegal immigrants into the United States and provide them with immigration benefits,” Sessions said in a statement last week. “A ‘border security’ plan that does not include these elements may end up as nothing more than a slush fund used by the administration to resettle illegal immigrants in the U.S. interior.”

In response, McCaul said his bill is not “an immigration bill, it’s a border security bill.”

DHS secretary Jeh Johnson criticized the bill as unrealistic. “The bill sets mandatory and highly prescriptive standards that the Border Patrol itself regards as impossible to achieve, undermines the Department of Homeland Security’s capacity to adapt to emerging threats and politicizes tactical decisions,” he said.