Washington D.C. – Today, Congressman Duncan Hunter introduced bipartisan legislation, the Unlawful Border Entry Prevention Act, to provide the Secretary of Homeland Security with full discretionary authority to build as much as 350 miles of additional infrastructure on the Southwest border.  The legislation, cosponsored by Congressmen Heath Shuler (D-NC), Tim Ryan (D-OH), Mike McIntyre (D-NC), Brian Bilbray (R-CA), Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ted Poe (R-TX), follows a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) stating that only 44 percent of the Southwest border is under operation control, while only 15 percent of the border is air tight. 

Under existing law, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was given until December 2008 to identify specific locations on the Southwest border for infrastructure construction.  There is currently no legitimate legal authority for DHS to build additional infrastructure in the event it is needed.

“Despite considerable gains in recent years, the Southwest border is nowhere near secure,” said Congressman Hunter.  “Smuggling corridors remain wide open, providing direct access for drug runners, criminals and illegal immigrants.  This not only presents a significant risk to U.S. national security, but also undermines the safety of communities on both sides of the border.  Thousands have died in Mexico due to border violence in the last two years alone.  U.S. border areas are also overwhelmed, facing recurring threats that are a direct result of an unprotected border. 

“The GAO findings come as no surprise.  Clearly, a more integrated approach, utilizing manpower, technology and infrastructure is critical to creating an enforceable border.  Infrastructure works and must continue to be incorporated into our overall enforcement strategy.  While the Administration might not have any plans to expand infrastructure on the Southwest border, it should still have the appropriate authority to build fencing wherever and whenever necessary.”

Brian Bilbray, Chairman of the House Immigration Reform Caucus, added, “The United States must control our southern border to fight against illegal immigration and improving our national security.  This cannot be accomplished unless the Department of Homeland Security has the legal authority to reinforce the border.  We are ensuring that the Department has the tools necessary to protect our country.”

The Unlawful Border Entry Prevention Act also requires that once a sector of the Southwest border experiences a 40 percent increase in apprehensions from the previous fiscal year, the Secretary of Homeland Security is required to report to Congress within 30 days with a plan to gain operational control of that particular sector.