Border Fence Bill Signing Ceremony Is an Empty Gesture

As a 26 1/2 year veteran of the United States Border Patrol and a Member of Congress representing a border district, I am astounded that the President and the Republican leadership stood today before the American people with their 'signature achievement' on homeland security, declaring that our nation would be safer because the President had signed a bill to construct 700 miles of fence on the 2,000-mile US/Mexico border.

The Republican House leadership spent the entire month of August holding media events and hearings on the border, and the message from those who work on the border every day is that we don't need 700 miles of new fence.  We need a comprehensive plan that addresses the three main priorities of the Border Patrol: manpower, technology, and infrastructure.

I am also deeply disturbed by Speaker Hastert's continued attacks on the Democratic record on border security and his false claim that Leader Pelosi has never visited the border.

House Democratic Leader Pelosi not only understands the importance of border security, she understands the dynamics and importance of trade and commerce to our border region and our country. She understands the critical implications that failures on the part of both the Bush Administration and the Republican Congressional leadership have had on our border communities and in making our country less safe even five years after 9/11.

How do I know? I have been at the border with her. She has taken the time not only to visit but to listen. I contrast her March 2006 visit to El Paso, TX with those of so many of my Congressional colleagues who come to the border, take a cursory tour, hold a photo op, and leave as 'experts.'

Border residents know the difference or perhaps I should say the indifference with which we've been treated.