In an effort to fulfill the harsh requirements of the immigration executive order released during the Trump administration’s first week in office, the House Homeland Security Committee passed the Border Security for America Act, H.R. 3548, out of committee on a party line vote on Wednesday.
The timing of the Committee’s vote is significant—it likely represents Republicans’ willingness to use border wall funding as a bargaining chip for both the year-end government funding debate and negotiations over the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative.
Though the president has said his border wall funding can be absent from the DACA deal, House Republicans want it front and center. They have threatened a government shutdown in December over the border wall funding, and may be tacking it on in exchange for a legislative fix for Dreamers.
Under this bill, DHS would receive $10 billion for a border wall. That amount of funding is far below any projection that currently exists, however. The Migration Policy Institute estimates the cost of the remaining border wall segments is between $15 and $25 billion, with each mile of fencing costing $16 million.
The bill does not stop at the border wall funding, however. The additional agents included in the bill would represent a 25 percent increase at a time when border apprehensions continue to go down, a slide that began and has remained fairly steady for the past 17 years. The bill would also make hiring these agents far easier by lessening requirements for agency employment. Border apprehensions are now running at less than 25 percent of the level they reached in 2000. The DHS Office of Immigration Statistics concluded in a report out just last month, “that the southwest land border is more difficult to illegally cross today than ever before.”
The next step for this legislation is a full vote in the House. It appears to have widespread support among Republicans with over 70 co-sponsors and the public support of the Freedom Caucus Chairman.
All eyes will be on House Republicans’ attempt to attach this type of border legislation on to a permanent solution for Dreamers. Hopefully, instead of wasting their time with enforcement-only legislation, Congress will focus on more meaningful immigration reforms that move our nation forward.