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House Republican bill aims to restart border wall, improve tech

Homeland Security Committee set a Wednesday markup of the 68-page legislation, which would also increase the number of Border Patrol agents

House Homeland Security Chairman Mark E. Green, R-Tenn., is seen leaving the Capitol in March.
House Homeland Security Chairman Mark E. Green, R-Tenn., is seen leaving the Capitol in March. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The House Homeland Security Committee released proposed legislation Monday that would restart border wall construction, increase the number of Border Patrol agents and modernize border security technology.

The bill, which the committee is scheduled to consider on Wednesday, is part of House Republicans’ larger legislative package to address record-high levels of migration to the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Republican conference has made the issue a focus of its agenda. The House Judiciary Committee advanced counterpart legislation last week that would restrict asylum access for migrants at the border, reinstate migrant family detention and heighten penalties for immigration violations.

Homeland Security Chairman Mark E. Green, R-Tenn., who introduced the legislation Monday, said in a news release that the 68-page bill includes “real border security solutions crafted with the insight of those who pay the cost of this crisis every day: frontline Border Patrol agents, their families, local business owners, state and local law enforcement, as well as farmers and ranchers.”

“This border crisis is one of the greatest security threats facing the American people. Republicans on the Homeland Security Committee won’t stand by and let it continue,” Green said.

According to a committee fact sheet, the bill would require the Department of Homeland Security to restart construction of border barriers, using funds already set aside by Congress for that purpose in prior years. Congress appropriated some funds for border wall construction during the Trump administration, but President Joe Biden halted construction via executive order shortly after taking office.

The bill would also ramp up hiring of Border Patrol agents, with a goal to have 22,000. Acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Troy Miller told congressional appropriators last week that the agency currently has about 19,000 Border Patrol agents.

The draft bill would prevent the agency from allowing migrants to schedule appointments at the border to make asylum claims via the CBP One app, which was recently expanded for that purpose. The bill would permit the app to be used “only for inspection of perishable cargo.”

Other provisions aim to boost retention of Border Patrol agents and modernize surveillance technology.

The bill would require DHS to submit a report to Congress on whether certain Mexican cartels should be designated as foreign terrorist organizations. Rep. Tony Gonzales, a Texas Republican on the Homeland Security Committee who has raised concerns about his party’s border security proposals, has identified this issue as a priority for him.

“If you see labeling cartels as terrorists in the Homeland Security package, it’s probably a good sign that that’s on the right path,” Gonzales told reporters last week.

It’s unclear how much traction the legislation will gain among other House Republicans. An earlier Republican-led border security proposal, which would allow the government to block all asylum-seekers from entering the country indefinitely, was met with opposition from some Republican lawmakers, including Gonzales, for going too far to restrict asylum.

While Republicans on the Judiciary Committee advanced the latest version of their immigration bill, all the committee Democrats and one Republican voted against it.

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