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Rep. Mike McCaul's border bill requires 'physical barriers' and technology

The plan would add 5,000 border agents and 5,000 customs officers

Washington CNN —  

The top homeland security Republican in the House unveiled a border security bill Friday that would codify President Donald Trump’s border wall, boost resources for Border Patrol and authorize the National Guard and Defense Department to provide support to those efforts.

The Border Security for America Act by Texas Rep. Mike McCaul is a scaled back version of a bill that McCaul had been working on with fellow Texan Republican Sen. John Cornyn, as CNN first reported. Drafts of that bill that circulated earlier this year were more than three times as long as this border security bill and included more aspects of immigration enforcement.

The border-focused bill from McCaul would require “physical barriers” and technology to be deployed on the Southern border, would increase air and marine patrols, would add 5,000 border agents and 5,000 customs officers, would waive polygraph requirements for a narrow set of Customs and Border Patrol applicants and would mandate an entry-exit system for entering and leaving the United States that collects biometric information.

Other provisions in the bill include authorizations for the National Guard and Defense Department to loan troops and supplies to the border security effort with reimbursement from the federal government – though they would not be authorized to do immigration enforcement tasks.

The measure may be controversial, though there is precedent. In 2010, President Barack Obama deployed 1,200 National Guard troops to the Southern border to fight drug crime and provide intelligence, and in 2014 then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry sent troops his state’s border with Mexico amid a surge of undocumented immigrants.

The bill would allow for the National Guard and military to engage in activities like building, intelligence gathering and surveillance. There are no provisions allowing for the troops to be involved in law enforcement activities.

The legislation would also require the department to conduct a security assessment of the Southern border and submit strategic plans for securing it going forward.

What the bill’s path forward is unclear. McCaul, as chairman of the House homeland security committee, has plenty of political capital within the House and has shown an ability to get bills passed in the Republican-dominated chamber.

The bill has more than 40 Republican co-sponsors.

But in the Senate, where legislation typically requires 60 votes to advance, Republicans have to convince eight Democrats. They have signaled they won’t support any border security efforts without compromises on protecting at least some undocumented immigrants who are already here, and are hesitant to give the President a win on his border wall.

Cornyn’s office did not comment on its plan for the counterpart the Republican was working on with McCaul earlier this year, but pointed CNN to comments the senator made this week to a reporter in Texas about wanting a “comprehensive” piece of legislation.

“I’ve been working for months with my colleagues in the Senate and on the House side to come up with a proposal that we now have proposed to the Department of Homeland Security, and we’ve been getting technical corrections and suggestions from them,” Cornyn said. “But my hope is that we’ll be able to roll out this comprehensive border security bill that includes infrastructure like the President wants but is part of an overall solution that actually will get the job done.”