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House lawmakers grill Border Patrol, as Senate passes immigration bill

A House subcommittee grilled Customs and Border Patrol agents Thursday over Southwest border security, charging that agents cannot identify which areas of the border are most dangerous.

Border Patrol agents testifying before the House Oversight and Government Reform’s subcommittee on national security conceded that there are still problems, but insisted that more agents and better technology continue to make for a safer border.

“There’s no cookie-cutter approach” to securing the border, but different techniques applied in different sectors,  said Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher. What is effective in Yuma may not be effective in Nogales, he told the subcommittee.

Subcommittee Republicans were dubious.

“It seems there is such a disconnect between those on the front lines and the bureaucrats that have marched up here on the Hill to tell us what they think and what we want to hear,” said Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Prescott.

The House hearing came the same day the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill that includes demands for a secure border and calls for 20,000 more border patrol officers, among other security measures.

The bill, which passed late Thursday afternoon on a 68-32 vote, now heads to the House where its prospects are uncertain.

Earlier in the day, Fisher and David Murphy, the border patrol’s acting assistant commissioner for field operations, testified that the agency deployed more than 1,500 monitoring devices along the border in the last 11 years to help identify contraband. The number of border patrol agents has grown from 10,000 in 2004 to more than 21,000 today, they said.

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These efforts have been successful, Fisher and Murphy said, pointing to 2010 FBI reports that show violent crime along the Southwest border dropped an average of 40 percent in two decades.

Rebecca Gambler, director of the Government Accountability Office’s Homeland Security and Justice team, testified that the Department of Homeland Security has seen spending for border security grow from about $5.9 billion in 2005 to $11.8 billion in 2012.

While Gambler commended Homeland Security for coordinating with the Interior and Agriculture departments, two agencies that protect federal lands, she said the agencies still need to share more information on daily operations.

But Republicans in the subcommittee challenged Fisher and Murphy, arguing that the border is not secure and demanding to know what can be done to fix those border sectors that are dangerous.

Gosar said he has talked to agents on the ground who confirm the dangers. One agent told Gosar that the way CBP tracks border crossers is inefficient, and another estimated the agency catches only 20 percent of border crossers a day.

Border Patrol agents say their job includes a “constant fight with the federal government,” Gosar said.

Subcommittee Republicans on Thursday also echoed criticisms of the Senate immigration bill from other House Republicans, who say it does not do enough to secure the border.

The Senate bill’s sponsors – including Arizona Republican Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake – have insisted that it secures the border and that it has been toughened even further by Senate amendments requiring thousands more agents on the border and hundreds of additional miles of fence.

Flake applauded the Senate for passing the bipartisan bill, which won the support of 14 Republicans, all 52 Democrats and both independents in the chamber.

“This legislation goes a long way toward securing our borders, modernizes our legal system, spurs economic growth and provides a tough-but-fair solution to those here illegally,” Flake said in a statement released minutes after the vote.

But House Speaker John Boehner has insisted that Republicans will bring up their own bill and will not merely consider whatever the Senate sends over. As opposed to one comprehensive measure, the GOP is currently pursuing several bills that are considered tougher on illegal immigration.

But House Democrats remained optimistic Thursday about the chances for the Senate bill. They said in a news conference that they only need 25 to 30 Republican votes to pass the Senate’s immigration reform bill.

Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson, called for bipartisanship on the issue in the House. The Republican leadership must “have the moral imperative and courage to let bipartisanship work and to let this House vote,” he said at the news conference.

TucsonSentinel.com's original reporting and curation of border and immigration news is generously supported in part by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

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3 comments on this story

Jun 28, 2013, 6:37 pm
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YOU CAN ALSO BLAST FAXES AT numbersusa and write your own message or copy the one exhibited.  At americanpatrol is a daily report from newspapers across the country, illustrating the huge rise in drunk drivers, and other heinous crimes the left oriented press keeps suppressed. For legal information about corruption in Washington and in state assemblies at judicialwatch Also Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has set up an email address for people to contact if they believe they were targeted by the IRS. That address is: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Senator Ted Cruz of Texas has launched a national petition. It is at SecureBordersNow, Cruz said. In just a week, weve have reached 150,000 people from all over the country sign that petition speaking out to say Do not do legalization first. Secure the borders first, fix the problem.?


Jun 28, 2013, 6:36 pm
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To me is blatantly obvious that those already here remain hidden from view and not detectable, which the “OVERSTAYS”. Just like so many weak parts of law, such as unlawful entry, being no more than a civil misdemeanor and not a federal FELONY? In my view so many flaws in the laws are deliberate. So instead of building up the borders with 20.000 more U.S. immigration agents at the borders, split them up and place 10.000 for internal enforcement.  Remind your representatives by phoning any of the100 Senators and 435 Representatives for State or Federal at toll-free number—1-888-978-3094—.You may phone the United States Capitol circuit at (202) 224-3121. A terminal operator will connect you directly with the Senate office or just about anybody in Washington you request to speak with, after being confronted by an aid. 

‘Do what you will is the whole of the law’, seems to be the mantra of the Obama administration and unless you read the Senate Immigration law, you will find out all the gaping holes, special waivers, omissions that makes this reform bill passed to the House valueless for serious enforcement.


There are too many inconsistencies, as the act does not name the border fence as Double layer parallel running fences. Why 20.000 agents at the border, when interior enforcement would be better served, with at least 10.000 to run down incorrigible employers who will be hiring thousands of overstays and illegal aliens claiming legal status who will be stealing jobs from Americans, as businesses will not have offer the health care, as a benefit. Obamacare has major flaws and even huge cost that as yet cannot be imagined.  Every American of African descent, European descent,, Hispanic descent, Latin descent, Caribbean descent, Asian descent and every hemisphere who are going to suffer under this soiled immigration act and likely to be lose their job to new legalized people, especially in the working class. The only non-sufferers are the welfare leeches, except that are really handicapped or sick. I am sure it won’t be too long, before epithets are addressed to me and the race card; they have nothing else in their vocabulary.

Jun 28, 2013, 6:33 pm
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1986 Amnesty Deja Vu

Sen. Ted Cruz said after the senate legislation the following about Senate majority decision: “Sadly, this bill won’t fix the problem with our immigration system and will only encourage more illegal immigration and human suffering and added,

“I strongly support commonsense immigration reform that secures the border before legalization, fixes our legal immigration system, and upholds the rule of law. This bill isn’t it.”

All those who signed onto this bill are warned of the consequences, because hardly anybody read the bill outright before approving it?  All these Senate Republicans have risked their political future. Alexander, Tenn.; Ayotte, N.H.; Chiesa, N.J.; Collins, Maine; Corker, Tenn.; Flake, Ariz.; Graham, S.C.; Hatch, Utah; Heller, Nev.; Hoeven, N.D.; Kirk, Ill.; McCain, Ariz.; Murkowski, Alaska; Rubio, Fla. Then having that obnoxious witch Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano with her hand on the switch, with full authority is tantamount to a catastrophe in the future. I wouldn’t trust this loose cannon advocate, than I could spit or puke. She has shown her irritation to the “Rule of law” by releasing dangerous illegal aliens felons back on the streets, using the Sequester as a flimsy excuse. With this Political appointee the chances of immigration being fully enforced with her in control, is a giant mistake.

This De facto amnesty is a malfunction to enforce the nation’s immigration laws on the interior of the United States. It is not a border issue. Chris Crane, president of the union who represents 7,000 immigration and customs enforcement officers stated, it cannot and will not end as a result of amplified border security. It must be determined through increased interior enforcement?  But the fact is that the man who knew just about everything governing the border was ignored by the Gang of Eight.

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Emilie Eaton/Cronkite News Service

Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher defended his agency to a House subcommittee, testifying that the border is more secure because of more agents on the ground and better technology in the field.