The situation at our borders is a threat to national security. Thousands enter our country illegally each year. Some border crossers seek to take advantage of American opportunity to create a better life. Others, however, come to exploit American openness to do us harm. It is not at all far-fetched to assume terrorists may try to infiltrate our nation as a part of the stream of migrants, criminals and drugs flowing through our porous borders. Regardless of their intent, we must respond to unlawful border crossings with swift action.
That’s why I introduced S. 2454, the Securing America’s Borders Act. This bill will enhance our border defenses through increased personnel and technology and improve interior enforcement by making it easier for employers to verify the immigration status of new hires.
Republicans have already taken steps to protect our borders. Last year, we passed legislation to increase border protection funding by $883 million and hire 1,000 new border control agents. Since 2000, Republicans have increased funding for border security by 60 percent, including enough additional money to increase the border patrol by 30 percent.
But we need to do more. The legislation I introduced would add nearly 15,000 additional border agents to supplement the 20,000 Customs and Border Protection agents already on the job.
Border patrol agents serve as the first line of defense against unlawful entry. As such, they need the most advanced resources available to maintain the integrity of our borders. My bill would begin the process of building a 1,951-mile long virtual barrier across every inch of our border with Mexico. In the most high-traffic areas, border crossers attempting to slip into the country would be met with walls and fences. Low traffic areas would be monitored with sensors. My bill also provides for new investments in aerial vehicles and cameras to ensure that there are no weak points along the border. This technology will provide a great boost to the efforts of our border protection professionals.
Those who facilitate and profit from illegal border crossings will face stiffer penalties under my bill. The legislation creates tough new penalties for human smugglers, people who forge border-crossing documents, and those who engage in sham marriages.
Because so many illegal immigrants come to our country to work, the nation’s employers also have a role to play in enforcing immigration laws. There is currently a pilot program in place that allows employers to verify the immigration status of prospective employees. My bill would expand this electronic database so that employers will have a quick, reliable way to ensure they only hire individuals who are citizens or legal residents.
Throughout our history, immigrants have enriched American culture immeasurably. As a nation of immigrants, America has always welcomed those who come here legally seeking a better life in the tradition and spirit of generations of Americans from pilgrims to pioneers. But it is imperative that our borders be secured to preserve the safety and security of the American people.
I look forward to bringing a border security bill to the floor this week and allowing the Senate to start work on border security and interior law enforcement, as well as comprehensive immigration reform, so that America is more secure and our constituents are safer.