Yesterday, the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border, Maritime, and Global Counterterrorism held a hearing on Enhancing DHS’ Efforts to Disrupt Alien Smuggling across Our Borders. Witnesses from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Government Accountability Office (GAO), and Terry Goddard, Attorney General for the State of Arizona all testified. Unfortunately, the hearing ended up being short on solutions and long on rhetoric.

The hearing followed the release of a GAO report, which asserted that the DHS could do a better job along the southwest border by “leveraging investigative resources.” Subcommittee Chairman Henry Cuellar (D-TX) echoed results of the study, and also asked for DHS to use more performance measures so that Congress could better follow DHS’ progress in securing the border. Cuellar also expounded on the strength and utility of Operation Streamline, a program which is not without its own problems.

Representative Candice Miller (R-MI) chose a different tack, choosing to ignore the report altogether. Instead, she tried to push Arizona AG Terry Goddard into saying that we should classify criminal immigrants crossing the border as “enemy combatants,” and not afford them the rights and protections normally given in our court system. Goddard disagreed, stating that he believed that our civilian court system was strong enough.

In rebuttal, Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) pointed out that we have never caught any known terrorists coming across the southern border. Sanchez also pushed back on the assertion many have made to justify Arizona law SB1070—that nothing has been done along the border—pointing out that in recent years the Border Patrol has grown from 4,000 to 20,000 agents, and that just this year ICE will be adding 160 additional agents along the southwest border. Clearly, money is not the issue along the border.

Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-NJ) attempted to get the committee back on track—berating fellow members for talking about issues other than trying to stop alien smuggling—and asked the witnesses if they had any ideas about how to stop alien smuggling across the border (to which they were mostly silent). Rep. Al Green (D-TX) focused on guns, asking the witnesses for ideas on how to stop guns and money flowing across the border. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ) was quick to point on in her time that while violence on the Mexican side of the border is still up, violent crime rates in Arizona are actually down.

So what should be tackled next among the myriad issues mentioned in yesterday’s hearing? Clearly, advanced metrics are needed to assess the progress that has been made on securing the border. Major issues must be dealt with—how to stop gun smuggling, alien smuggling—and how to not only ensure that violence does not cross the border into the U.S., but also how to reduce this violence in the first place. Finally, as Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) pointed out, comprehensive immigration reform must be part of the package of solutions needed to solve these problems.

Photo by Deni