Homeland Security Chair Says U.S. Far from Having Operational Control of Border

By Terence P. Jeffrey | June 9, 2016 | 2:28pm EDT
House Homeland Security Chair Michael McCaul (Screen Capture)

(CNSNews.com) - House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul (R.-Texas) said today that the U.S. government is “far from” having operational control of the U.S.-Mexico border.

“We do know we are apprehending other-than-Mexicans, special-interest aliens from countries of interest that concern us,” McCaul said in a discussion on national security at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“We’re apprehending them,” he said, “but how many have already gotten into this country?”

McCaul was responding to a questioner who asked him “what is the criteria that will finally let us know when we have a secure border.”

“It’s when we can gain operational control--and you can define that in many ways,” said McCaul. “But right now we are catching less than half of what’s coming in."

McCaul then said that he and House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, who shared the stage with him, worry about: “What is coming in that we don’t know about?

“We do know we are apprehending other-than-Mexicans, special-interest aliens from countries of interest that concern us. We’re apprehending them, but how many have already gotten into this country? And I think that’s one of the biggest concerns,” McCaul said.

“I believe—and I had a bill that we got out of my committee—that there’s a multi-layer approach to basically create a barrier to prevent illegal aliens, but also potential terrorists, from coming into the United States, that involves not just fencing—although fencing is important and infrastructure—but also technology and aviation assets and manpower, boots on the ground, to respond,” he said.

McCaul then noted a program included in the fiscal 2016 Defense authorization law that provided for transferring certain surplus equipment from Department of Defense to the Department of Homeland Security.

“One important program that we passed was the Department of Defense transferring excess surplus property like aerostats from Afghanistan to the Southwest Border, so we have that visibility,” he said.

“Right now we can’t see 100 percent what’s happening on the ground. If you can’t see what’s happening, it’s very difficult to respond to it,” McCaul said.

“So, I think the answer [to when we have a secure border] is when we achieve operational control. We are far from that right now,” said McCaul.

A Congressional Research Service report on border security published in April noted that the National Border Patrol Strategy (NBPS) released in 2004 and the Secure Fence Act of 2006 defined “operational control” of the border differently.

“The NBPS was an attempt to lay the foundation for achieving ‘operational control’ over the border, defined by the Border Patrol as ‘the ability to detect, respond, and interdict border penetrations in areas deemed as high priority for threat potential or other national security objectives,’” said the CRS report.

A footnote to that sentence in the CRS report, said: “This definition differs from the statutory definition found in Section 2 of the Secure Fence Act of 2006 (P.L. 109-367), which defines operational control as ‘the prevention of all unlawful entries into the United States, including entries by terrorists, other unlawful aliens, instruments of terrorism, narcotics, and other contraband.’”

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