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MYTH vs. FACT: Border Commission Is Another Do-Nothing Washington Gimmick

Apr 21, 2013 | Press Releases

MYTH: The Border Commission is nothing more than another do-nothing Washington gimmick.

  • Mickey Kaus: “A commission!  It’s an insult to conservatives that Sen. Rubio thinks they can be taken in by a bit of Washington schlock that cliched. Couldn’t the Gang of 8 come up with some fresher BS?” (Mickey Kaus, “90% Bull,” Daily Caller, 4/11/13)

  • Conn Carroll: “If DHS fails to catch 90 percent of border-crossers, all that happens is the creation of a Border Commission that must produce a report. That’s it. A report. No report has ever stopped anyone from crossing a border.” (Conn Carroll, “Marco Rubio’s completely worthless border security triggers,” Washington Examiner, 4/17/13)

  • Ann Coulter: “So the water torture awaiting the Department of Homeland Security if it fails to secure the border is … ANOTHER GOVERNMENT COMMISSION WILL BE CREATED! Take that, Homeland Security! Ha — we have you now! The only thing more frightening than ‘another government commission’ is a ‘strongly worded letter.’” (Ann Coulter, Op-Ed, “If Rubio’s Amnesty Is So Great, Why Is He Lying?” Human Events, 4/17/13)

  • “But some of the same factors that have hamstrung panels charged with solving the nation’s fiscal challenges (see: the Supercommittee, Simpson-Bowles) could plague a border commission, too, critics warn. Republicans and Democrats both assume the other side is playing politics and have fundamental disagreements over how secure the border is right now, as well as who should serve on such a commission and just how much power it would have.” (“Questions About Border Commission,” Politico, 3/18/13)

  • “For a body with such potential power, what is so far known about the commission is greatly outweighed by what isn’t. But what’s clear is that Republicans and Democrats working on immigration reform have very different ideas about the most important aspects of how the commission would function.” (“Questions About Border Commission,” Politico, 3/18/13)

FACT: In order to create the toughest border security and immigration enforcement in U.S. history, our proposal creates a series of security triggers that must be met over the next 10 years before the illegal immigrants currently here can apply for a green card. One of those triggers is the creation of a Border Commission in five years if the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has failed to achieve 100 percent awareness and 90 percent success in high-risk sectors of the southern border.

The legislation creating the Border Commission is carefully written to withstand constitutional challenge. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Printz vs. U.S. that the federal government cannot compel state and local authorities to enforce federal laws. Therefore, a commission made up only of local officials and told “you have to enforce our immigration laws and make sure we reach a 90% effectiveness rate in all our high risk border sectors,” regardless of whether or not those sectors are in their respective states, would likely result in a legal challenge that would rule the Commission’s functions unconstitutional. The legislation avoids this problem by carefully balancing how appointments to the Commission are structured and by putting the obligation on DHS to implement the Commission’s recommendations if our border remains unsecured five years after the bill’s enactment.

The true strength of the Commission comes from $2 billion appropriated for the Commission that can only be spent by DHS on whatever the Commission prescribes to secure the border. For example, if the Commission recommends 200 additional miles of fencing, the Secretary of Homeland Security will be compelled to implement the recommendation. He or she will not be able to divert resources to other projects. The Comptroller General will review the plan to ensure the Commission’s recommendations can be achieved with the available funds, and then DHS must use the $2 billion on exactly what the Commission says – effectively making the Commission a powerful and important policy-making body.

Of course, if our border security goals are met in five years, which is expected, then the Commission has no role because the border will be secured.

  • “If Homeland Security doesn’t reach those goals, the job would be handed over to a newly-created ‘Southern Border Security Commission’ made up of governors from the four border states – California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas – and other border experts appointed by the president and leaders of both parties of Congress. The commission would receive an additional $2 billion to develop and implement a strategy to reach those goals.” (Alan Gomez, “Senate immigration bill offers status, boosts borders,” USA Today, 4/16/13)