Tougher Mexican Border Security is Part of New Immigration Plan

Mike O'Brien

A greatly improved system of surveillance along the U.S.-Mexico border, plus a high rate of apprehensions of people trying to cross it will be key components in a landmark immigration bill that’s in the process of being finalized.

A bipartisan group of senators who are drafting the legislation are said to be calling for surveillance of 100 percent of the entire border and 90 percent apprehension rate in "high risk" areas where most people try to cross.

Related: Maritime Homeland Secuirty: Securing our Coastal Boarders

The legislation, which could be released within days, will also include employers undertaking mandatory electronic verification of their workers' legal statusand a new electronic exit system at airports and seaports.

Aside from tougher border security, the bill will help put 11 million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally on the road to citizenship and allow thousands of workers into the country on new visa programs, the Associated Press reports.

Democrat Senator Dick Durbin, spoke to reporters after briefing members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Wednesday.

He said: "We are closer now than we have been in 25 years for serious immigration reform. This president is behind it, and there is a strong, growing bipartisan effort in the Senate to support it. We hope that the House will do the same."

Backing the plan for increased border security, Sen. Chuck Schumer said: "A lot of people here would not want to put dollars into the border, but as a price to get citizenship, as long as it's not an impediment to citizenship but rather works alongside citizenship, it's something we can all live with.

"What we've said all along is triggers have to be objective and attainable in a way it doesn't interfere or delay with people becoming citizens, and that's in the bill."

A Government Accountability Office report released earlier this year stated that by the end of the 2010 fiscal year, the Department of Homeland Security reported achieving some level of operational control of 44 percent of the nearly 2,000-mile border. It defined operational control as the ability to detect and respond to cross-border illegal activity.

Under the new bill, the DHS would have six months from its enactment to draw up a new border security plan, setting up the personnel, infrastructure and technology needed to achieve the 90 percent apprehension rate. It would also have to map out where new faces are needed.

According to the Associated Press, once those plans are certified, people living here illegally could begin to apply for a provisional status allowing them to work here legally.

The legislation will stipulate that if the 90 percent success rate isn't achieved within five years, a commission composed of border state officials would make recommendations on how to achieve it.

The bill will allocate $5.5 billion for the various proposals, which includes $1.5 billion for fencing.

Many of the issues covered in this article will be discussed at IDGA’s 4th Annual Border Management Southwest event in Tucson, Arizona, next month. For full details, go to