Cruz: Homeland Security has its mind made up on border security

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said pending immigration reform legislation does nothing to force Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to secure the border before giving legal status to millions of illegal immigrants.

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“If Las Vegas oddsmakers were laying odds of the probability of the Department of Homeland Security concluding at whatever time it came into effect that the border would be secure, under this current bill, the Las Vegas odds would be greater than 10,000 to 1,” Cruz said Thursday, during the Judiciary Committee’s markup of the landmark legislation.

“It is a virtual certainty because the bill does not have meaningful metrics that actually have bite. It doesn’t have consequence,” Cruz said.

Cruz offered an amendment to triple the number of Border Patrol agents to 60,000, quadruple the number of cameras; sensors; drones and helicopters used to monitor the border, and create a double-layered border fence.

The amendment would have stopped the Department of Homeland Security from processing applications for provisional legal status until it complied with the security requirements. Security experts say it would take about 10 years to meet the rubrics set out by Cruz’s amendment.

The pending immigration reform bill would require Napolitano to craft a plan for securing the southwestern border before giving provisional legal status to an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants.

Immigrants with provisional legal status could not obtain green cards until the secretary of Homeland Security has determined the bill's goals for border security have been met. The secretary must certify to Congress that that a border security strategy is substantially deployed and substantially operational.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the bill's lead author, expressed confidence last month that the goals would be met.

"I think that's moot. They're going to be met," Schumer said when asked at a breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor about the possibility of falling short of the bill's metrics.

Cruz argues that Congress would give far too much discretion to Napolitano or her successor.

But he failed to convince Republican members of the Gang of Eight to support his amendment. It failed by a vote of 5-13.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a member of the gang, said Cruz’s amendment would cost $30 billion to $40 billion.

“That’s a substantial sum,” he said. “We need improved border security. I think that if we look at this, it’s just probably somewhere we can’t go.”

Flake noted the bill provides many additional resources for securing the border, including 3,500 new customs agents.