There are a host of questions Congress ought to be asking about DHS’ use of Predator unmanned aerial vehicles to provide border surveillance. Congressional staff should know how the Predator’s cost stacks up against other alternative means of surveillance. Perhaps the problem is that decisions on what platform to use for border surveillance are not being made on the basis of risk-reward or cost-benefit.
Immigration reform continues to occupy the top of the “must do” and “can do” lists of this Administration and many in Congress. At the State of the Union, circumstances were ripe for the President to mount the bully pulpit to build pressure on House Republicans. Yet, immigration reform received only a passing mention. Why?
News reports are trickling out about a decision by a Customs and Border Patrol Predator operator to send a multi-million dollar unmanned aerial vehicle into the Pacific Ocean when it became clear it could not make it back to its home base. This incident demands serious questions from Congress about the future of CBP’s Predator drone use.
There are not many agencies with as diverse a set of responsibilities as U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The two pieces of good news for CBP early in 2014 are that the agency appears to be receiving both an infusion of funds and a confirmed Commissioner to help tackle that very diverse mission set.
For all the talk and clichés about a global market and a global economy, the talk and clichés have morphed into truth. How do we stack up in the United States? Not so good. We are hampered by our out-of-date approach to customs and immigration. Unless we make some changes, the United States will remain on the sidelines of a global hub system. And if you are not a hub, you are a spoke.
Five years ago, I could have written that CBP was the worst agency in the federal government, almost hopeless. It was not responsive to stakeholders, seemed resistant to doing business new ways, and was being starved of resources by Congress. Fortunately, recent leadership at CBP has been much more open to new thinking. Old policies and staffing models remain a frustration, but the attitude has changed for the better.
On its face, the President’s announcement of Jeh Johnson’s appointment to be the next Secretary of Homeland Security seems politically questionable. Why throw your untested nominee who has to prepare for and endure a Senate confirmation process into the middle of an immigration reform fight? Because Johnson does not appear to have much of a history in the citizenship or border control policy arenas, questions will focus on how he will implement immigration reform legislation.
By Lora Ries
The House of Representatives is experiencing a burst of energy to encourage DHS to implement a biometric exit system. While we remain without a biometric exit system, the lack of such a system has not been for a lack of legislation. It has been the leadership of DHS that has declined to implement a biometric exit system. What will it take to actually implement biometric exit?
The House Committee on Homeland Security held hearings on yet another “biometric exit” mandate, which would require collection of biometrics from travelers departing the country and matching them to biometrics obtained at arrival. Yet, there are already several laws mandating entry-exit data matching. It’s almost like there is some sort of disconnect between the Hill and DHS.
By Lora Ries and Chris Wiesinger
At pivotal points in the nation’s history, immigration reflected an openness to the world and the possibilities of the American future. Current immigration reform initiatives also reflect a vision of the future, but that vision is static and lacks optimism because it aims to fix the mistakes of the past instead of building a foundation for the future. The House of Representatives has key opportunities to shape immigration into something that reflects an optimistic vision of America’s future.