Even though senators reached an agreement to increase border security in the sweeping immigration reform bill they plan to vote on next week, two House Republicans said on Thursday that the plan will not fly in the lower chamber.
“I think it’s absurd,” Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas told Sean Hannity on Fox News. “The president right now has the money, the manpower — everything he needs to secure the border. He doesn’t have the will.”
For his part, Rep. Steve King of Iowa said: “I only have confidence that we’re not going to get border security out of these people. They were never serious about it. No, these promises are not going to be followed through.”
Two GOP senators — Bob Corker of Tennessee and John Hoeven of South Dakota — announced on Thursday an agreement to strengthen border security as part of the immigration reform bill introduced by the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” senators in April.
Under the agreement, the number of U.S. Border Patrol agents would be doubled, to a total of 40,000, and the use of surveillance technology would be increased along the border. This would include unmanned drones, cameras, and ground sensors.
The agreement also would double the amount of border fencing required under the legislation, from 350 miles to 700 miles. Currently, about 40 miles of fencing is situated along the U.S.-Mexico border.
These changes are still not enough, Gohmert and King told Hannity.
“In ’86, it was the promise of enforcement later and amnesty now,” King said. “That was the case all along. In 2006, we passed a border security fence act. The fence was never built.
“The only way you can trust these people is only if they support this: secure the border, no legalization until that border is secure, then, let’s start the talks on something else. That’s really the only way we get this done.
“They’re not serious,” King added. “They want to undermine the rule of law — and anything that legalizes is a path to citizenship, which is, of course, amnesty.”
Gohmert referenced the “virtual fence” that was supposed to be built along the border under the 2006 legislation signed by President George W. Bush. The fence was to be a string of towers that would use cameras, radar, and ground sensors to see who was coming across in real time.
However, the project — which spent $2.4 billion between 2005 and 2009 — was plagued by delays, and its funding was halted in 2010 by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. “We love this country, and we know we need a secure border,” Gohmert said. “The president can do it right now.”
He urged the House to take no action on legalizing immigrants until the border was verified as secure by the governors of the states encompassing it.
Both congressmen said they feared that after each chamber passes its own version of immigration reform, members of the lower chamber will be pressured to support the Senate legislation in conference.
“We’ve raised this alarm for about a month and a half,” King said.
House Speaker John Boehner has pledged to not bring an immigration bill to the floor without strong support of Republicans, King said.
“The goal is to secure the border before anything comes up in the House and then we will take this topic up,” he said. “If they had done this in 2006, we wouldn’t be here today having this conversation.”
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