Lawmakers Stunned by Lack of Progress on Border Security

Friday, 22 Mar 2013 11:44 AM

By Lisa Barron

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House lawmakers warned the Obama administration this week that its failure to create a reliable method of monitoring border security could jeopardize passage of an immigration-reform bill, according to The New York Times.

The warning came as Homeland Security officials acknowledged in a hearing Wednesday before a House Homeland Security subcommittee that they have made no headway on producing an accurate means of evaluating border security.

The admission from Mark Borkowski, an assistant commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, stunned the lawmakers, who had expected to hear that progress was being made on completing a set of standards for measuring border conditions, according to the Times.

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Borkowski said evaluation standards were still undergoing internal reviews and there was no time frame for when they would be ready.

His testimony drew a stern response from Republican Rep. Candice Miller of Michigan, the chairman of the subcommittee on border security, and ranking Democratic member Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas.

“We do not want the Department of Homeland Security to be the stumbling block to comprehensive immigration reform for this country,” Miller told Borkowski, the Times reported.

She added that the lack of security measurements “could be a component of our failure to pass something I think is very important for our country.”

Jackson Lee agreed, bluntly telling Borkowski, "You've got to get in the game."

Miller emphasized again that the success of immigration-reform measures now being negotiated in both the House and Senate hinges on the assumption that federal authorities will be able to devise a way to assure that the government has control of the nation's borders.

Border security is a key element of both reform measures, being worked on by the so-called bipartisan Group of Eight in the Senate and by another bipartisan group in the House. Both are aimed at providing a legal pathway to citizenship for the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants now living in the United States.

At a Senate hearing last week, the Times noted, lawmakers pressed Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on the issue as well.

“We need to have a measurement,” Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona told her. “We need to assure the American people that we have effective control of the border.”

According to the Times, Miller and House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul of Texas reportedly are working on proposals that would force other administration officials to produce measures for evaluating the border if Homeland Security does not do so in the weeks ahead.

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