Remarks of Homeland Security Committee Chairman Cox During the REAL ID Act News Conference
Washington, DC (Wednesday, February 9, 2005) -- The following are excerpts from remarks delivered by House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Christopher Cox (R-CA) during today's news conference on the REAL ID Act:
"Today, we're going to be considering legislation that is going to make America safer and more secure and I'm confident that we will pass it in the U.S. House of Representatives. This is indeed unfinished business from the implementation of the 9-11 Commission recommendations. "I hope that never again, we fail to see that border security is an elemental part of homeland security.
"Since 9/11, America has waged a successful War on Terror. We have dedicated unprecedented resources to securing our homeland but there is more to do.
"The 9/11 Commission said: 'There is evidence that terrorists used human smugglers to sneak across borders,' and the report goes on to say, 'it is elemental to border security to know who is coming into the country,' today the report points out there are more than 9 million people in the United States illegally.
"The REAL ID Act does more than set a reasonable standard for ensuring the integrity of government-issued identification. It helps prevent terrorists from traveling across America's borders by closing the 3-mile hole in the border fence near San Diego.
"Border agents have reported an increased number of individuals from countries of national security interest -- countries known to harbor terrorists -- who have been smuggled recently across our borders.
-- More -- "In 2004, border patrol agents arrested over 650 suspected terrorists from countries of national security interest trying to cross the southern border, and they expect the number will rise this year.
"We will face this reality and this growing reality year after year unless we take the steps outlined in this legislation to deal with those border security gaps.
"We should complete this border security fence so that border agents can refocus their efforts in other problem areas, and save money while doing so. Not only does this make sense for our national security, but it makes sense for the nation's taxpayers.
"It would cost $32 million to complete this border security fence. Compare this to the approximately $6 billion that Congress appropriated in FY04 for customs and border protection, in FY05 we allocated $6.5 billion dollars, and the President has proposed in his budget just this week, $6.7 billion for Customs and Border Patrol. It will only cost $32 million to complete this three mile fence.
"Only in Washington will bureaucrats decide to spend millions of taxpayer dollars on a fence that has a big hole in it. It's high time that we finish this job. The border security fence will close border security gaps and save taxpayer's money, allow border agents to focus on other areas of national security interests and most importantly, it will, like the rest of this legislation, make America safer and more secure."
Even the most rosy estimates are that our Border Patrol only captures one in two illegals who cross the border. My sources in BP and ICE say it's closer to 1 in 5 or worse. That means if 650 terror suspects were apprehended, 650 to 3,000 potential terrorists eluded capture, and Congressman Cox expects the number to increase this year.
Perhaps that's why Cox said the shortchanging of new Border Patrol hiring
in President Bush's Budget Request for 2006 was "wholly inadequate."
It's nice that President Bush supports the REAL ID Act, but consider how many potential terrorists could be stopped with an expanded and restarted border drone program which observed over 850,000 illegal border crossings in a limited trial program in Arizona last year. Because of insufficient manpower on the ground, only 1,252 of those illegals who were observed were eventually repatriated,
So, what's the Bush Administration's excuse for failing to hire the 1,790 of the 2,000 new Border Patrol agents called for in the Intelligence Overhaul bill the President signed last December 17th?