National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America


Securing the Border

The Issue

An important element of a properly functioning immigration system is the ability to know who is crossing our border, and the ability to prevent persons from entering without authorization from our government. Today, though, our immigration system is broken. For some immigrants, there are virtually no legal avenues to enter the U.S., even when our economy demands their labor. In this creates incentive for immigrant workers to enter illegally. Instead of fixing the immigration system as a whole, Congress has been on a spending spree, buying more border guards, fences, and technology to guard the border.

We now have a situation where fewer people have been trying to cross the Southwest border illegally than at any time in the last 40 years, and towns in the border region are among the safest in the U.S. Given today’s reality, proposals for more spending on the border are more of a political gimmick than attempts to solve a problem. Further progress on border security will require fixing the immigration system as a whole.


  • Border Security Enforcement Act of 2011
    S. 803, introduced by Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) on April 13, 2011. (Current list of co-sponsors.) This bill would provide for the deployment of at least 6,000 National Guard troops to the Southwest Border and, by September 30, 2016, the deployment of an additional 5,000 Border Patrol agents. It requires completion of 700 miles of previously authorized fencing by December 31, 2011, and for the construction of additional double- and triple-layer fencing at appropriate locations on the border. It also authorizes the Secretaries of the Interior and of Agriculture to provide access to federal lands within 150 miles of the border for Customs and Border Protection personnel without regard to environmental laws.

  • Secure America Through Verification and Enforcement Act of 2011 (SAVE Act)
    H.R. 2000, introduced by Representative Heath Shuler (D-NC) and 36 co-sponsors. (Current list of co-sponsors.) Among other things, this bill would provide for increases in the number of Border Patrol and for additional infrastructure on the border. I would require a national strategy to “secure the border,” and it would provide for the emergency deployment of Border Patrol agents at the request of the governor of a border state.

  • Unlawful Border Entry Prevention Act of 2011
    H.R. 1091, introduced in the House by Representative Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and six co-sponsors on March 15, 2011. (Current list of co-sponsors.) This bill would authorize the construction of an additional 350 or more miles of reinforced fencing along the southwest border.

  • Secure Border Act of 2011
    H.R. 1299, introduced by Congresswoman Candice Miller (R-MO) and 18 co-sponsors on March 31, 2011. (Current list of co-sponsors.) This legislation would direct the Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS) to submit to Congress a comprehensive strategy for gaining “operational control” of the international borders of the United States within five years. (In this case, “operational control” is defined as no illegal border crossings.)

  • Department of Homeland Security Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012
    HR 3116, introduced by Congressman Peter King (R-NY) and 12 co-sponsors on October 6, 2011. This is the first reauthorization of the Department of Homeland Security since its inception in 2001. (Current list of co-sponsors.)


On September 21, 2011, H.R. 1299 passed the House Homeland Security Committee, Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security (by voice vote). On October 13, 2011, H.R. 3116 passed out of the House Homeland Security Committee by 20-12 vote.

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