Mr. Speaker, I want to address the third front that the United States is engaged in, and I am not talking about the war in Libya. I am talking about the border war on our southern front between the United States and Mexico, the war with the narcoterrorist gangs that are coming into the United States daily, bringing their wares into this country.
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano recently said that the border now is better than it ever has been. I take issue with that comment for a lot of reasons. One, I have been to the southern border of the United States, primarily in Texas with the border with Mexico. Been there numerous times. I just recently got back from the border at Arizona and Mexico. What I saw does not look like a secure border. Of course, she said it was better than it ever has been, but that's not the question.
The question is, is the border of the United States secure? And the answer to that question, in my opinion, is, no, it is not secure. Let's talk about this issue. This issue has been around for a long time. There seems to be a lot said about it. But as my grandfather used to say, when all is said and done, more is said than done. And the border between the United States and Mexico is not secure. I don't know that it's better than it ever has been.
There are problems on both sides of the border. In my visits to the border, it is not just the people in Mexico who live in concern and fear for their own safety about the narcoterrorists running up and down the border with automatic weapons, but it is people on the American side as well.
The National Border Patrol Council, that's the group that represents the Border Patrol agents, recently made the comment if the border was better now than it ever has been, Agent Brian Terry would not have been brutally murdered by heavily armed Mexican criminals operating over 13 miles inside the United States. That makes quite the point.
Just recently, in the last 24 hours, two Americans that live in Mexico but work in the United States and have worked in the United States for some years were legally crossing at a regular port of entry, and they were gunned down in Mexico while they were waiting to cross into the United States. Two Americans murdered. Of course, when an American is murdered in Mexico the chances of anybody in Mexico being prosecuted are almost nonexistent.
Last year, 65 Americans were murdered in Mexico. I know of no case where anybody in Mexico was held accountable for those crimes, because the crimes are out of control in Mexico. And to think that it does not affect the United States is living in never-never land.
This map here, I want to show some statistics about the border counties in Texas with Mexico. There are 14 border counties in Texas that border Mexico. Every so often I will call the sheriffs of those 14 border counties and ask them this simple question: How many people in your jail are foreign nationals? I am not asking the question how many are legally or illegally in the United States. You know, we can't ask that question in States. We can only find out if the person is in the United States from a foreign country.
So recently, 2 weeks ago, I called the sheriffs, the 14 border sheriffs in Texas, and asked them that question: How many people in your jail are foreign nationals charged with crimes? That would be a State misdemeanor or a felony crime. This does not include immigration violations. That's a whole different group of people.
So how many people are in your jail, not people charged with immigration violations, but they are just charged with cross-border crime? And the answer is 34 percent are foreign nationals, 34.5 percent to be exact. Now, think about that number. Thirty-four percent of the people in a local jail are from foreign countries. And they are not just from Mexico; they are from all over. Because everybody in the world knows if you can get into Mexico, you can get into the United States.
You see, Mexico doesn't protect its border any better than the United States does. So people all over the world go into Mexico, and they sneak across into the United States. In these border county jails, 34 percent of those people are foreign nationals who have committed a crime and gotten caught and are locked up in local jails.
Now, to say that there is not a crime problem on the border is not reality because, you see, if the border was secure--and that is the Federal Government's job to secure the border--if the border was secure, you wouldn't have these people coming into the United States committing crimes because they couldn't get across, the ones that are illegally crossing into the United States. And these are not rich counties. These are poor counties. These counties don't have a lot of revenue. It's very difficult for these counties to house and feed and take care of the medical issues of cross-border crime. But they are saddled with that responsibility because the Federal Government does not protect the border of the United States in an adequate manner.
So the question is, is the border of the United States secure? The answer to that question is, no, it is not. The proof is in the statistics in this one area.
Let's spread it out a little bit further. Let's talk about the Federal prison system. Now, the Federal prison system is where people have been caught for a felony in the United States and tried in a Federal court and sent to a Federal penitentiary somewhere across the entire United States. The Federal Government keeps up with the number of people who are in Federal penitentiaries serving time that are criminal aliens.
Now, that's a different term. Foreign nationals, that term, I use that term as a person from a foreign country, legally or illegally in the United States. But the Federal Government keeps specific statistics on criminal aliens. A criminal alien is a person that is illegally in the United States, commits a crime, gets caught, gets convicted, and goes to the Federal penitentiary.
So how many people have we got like that in the United States? The latest statistics show that the total number of criminal aliens in U.S. prisons is 27 percent. Now, we are talking about some real numbers. We are talking about all the Federal penitentiaries in the United States where people are charged with crimes and convicted; 27 percent of our population in the Federal penal system are people who are criminal aliens. Now, if the border was secure, people wouldn't come into the United States illegally, commit crimes, get caught, tried in Federal courts, and go to Federal penitentiaries.
Yet, over one-fourth of the people we house in the Federal prison system are in that category. So the question is, is the border secure? And the answer is no, it is not secure.
One-fourth of the people that are incarcerated in our prison system, in the Federal prison system, are called criminal aliens. It doesn't sound like it's a very secure border to me if those people are able to come into the United States.
While I am talking about the prison system, let me give another scenario that occurs, which is really frustrating. We have people who come into the United States, they commit crimes, they are foreign nationals, some are criminal aliens. They commit crimes, they get convicted in a court somewhere in the United States, either a State court or a Federal court. They are sent to the State penitentiary or the Federal penitentiary. While they are incarcerated, serving their time, the system works very well because ICE comes in, puts a detainer on them for deportation, they have a deportation hearing, so that as soon as they get out of the penitentiary, they are supposed to be deported back to the country that they came from. That's the way the system is supposed to work, and it works like that sometimes but not all the time. Because, you see, there are some countries who won't take back their criminal aliens.
What do you mean they won't take them back? Well, their criminal aliens come into our country, they commit a crime, they are sent to the penitentiary. While incarcerated, they are ordered to go back home as soon as they get out of the penitentiary.
And when we get ready to deport them back from whence they came, their country says, Don't send 'em back to us--we don't want 'em. I mean, you know, they've got enough criminals of their own, I guess. But they refuse to take back their criminal aliens.
Now, how many people are we talking about? The current number is 140,000 of those people, 140,000 people from foreign countries, committed crimes in the United States, ordered to be deported back and their countries refuse to take them back; 140,000.
So what happens to them? Well, under our Constitution we just can't keep them in jail after they've served their time. So after 6 months, where they are not deported after their time is served, they are released into the United States because their country won't take them back.
Who are those countries? Well, there are a whole lot of them. The top five, you would never guess this, but China is in the top five, you know, our good buddies, the Chinese, who own most of our debt, our great trading partners. They don't take back their criminal aliens.
Other countries, Cuba, Vietnam, Jamaica and India, those are the top five nations that refuse to take back their criminal aliens after being convicted. So those 140,000 people continue to be our problem because their countries don't take them back.
If the border were secure, those people would never have gotten in the United States to begin with to commit crimes, and now we are stuck with those individuals. We need to have a consequence for those countries that refuse to take their lawfully deported criminal aliens back.
Those countries should have some type of consequence for failure to take their lawfully deported individuals back. I am not sure what that would be, but we must consider all of our options, including if those countries receive any type of foreign aid, we shouldn't give them foreign aid. You don't get foreign aid if you don't take back your criminal aliens.
Those countries that don't get foreign aid, maybe we should reconsider their lawful visas for people that are coming into the United States. See, all these countries do get visas, except maybe Cuba, into the United States, and maybe we should reconsider that.
But it's a massive problem in the criminal justice system alone for the fact that the border remains unsecure. The border is a long way, just the Texas border, from El Paso down to Brownsville. I mean, if you are not from Texas you don't know how far that is, it's just a long way. But it's the same distance as from New Orleans to New York City. That's how long a border it is.
And the entire southern border of the United States is 1,957 miles long. Now we are talking about a lot of territory. So how much of that land is secure?
Well, recently, Richard Santana, who works for the Homeland Security Department, said that the United States only has 129 miles of that 1,957 mile border that is secure. Now, that doesn't seem like a very long amount; 129 miles is not very much of a border when you have 1,957 miles of that border that is not secure.
Taking another organization, the GAO, that is the Government Accountability Office, that is the group of people that keep up with all the statistics that we, Members of Congress, ask them to keep up with.
They have released a report talking about that one question. How secure is the southern border of the United States? And their answer is this: 44 percent of the border is considered secure but, really, only 15 percent of the border is airtight. That means we will catch you if you come across 15 percent of this massive border.
So if 44 percent is somewhat secure, that means 56 percent of the border is controlled by somebody else. Who controls that portion of the border? It's not the United States. It's not Mexico. Who controls 56 percent of our southern border?
It seems like anybody who wants to cross controls it and, to my opinion, primarily it's those narcoterrorists, those people who bring drugs into the United States, those violent drug cartels who operate not only in Mexico but other parts of the continent, including South America.
So we need to make sure that we talk about what is correct, and the people who live on the border, you ask them. You go down there and you just pick somebody out and you ask them, whether it's in Texas or whether it's in Arizona, whether they feel secure on the border, and the ones I have talked to don't feel secure.
Now, recently, last weekend, weekend before last, I had the opportunity to go to Arizona. I was a guest of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords' staff. Gabby Giffords, as Members of Congress know, has been working on border security issues for a long time. Last year she sponsored a letter to the President, myself and others cosigned it, to put more National Guard troops on the border. The President responded with some National Guard troops on the border, and she has worked on that issue.
And before her tragic incident where she was shot, she and I had been talking about the fact that I had invited her to Texas to come down and look at the Texas border, and she had invited me to Arizona to go meet with the people on the southern border of Arizona.
And so last week, I had the opportunity, thanks to Ms. Giffords' staff, to go down to the Arizona border. I will say this about her staff: They are a tremendous group of individuals. I am highly impressed with how informed Ms. Giffords' staff was and appreciate the fact that they took me and part of my staff down there to see the way it is in Arizona.
But here is a map of Arizona, and the portions of Arizona where I was were in the southeastern portion of Arizona, over here. Everybody has heard of Tombstone, but I was a little further south than Tombstone, all the way to the border and Douglas, Arizona, which is in the corner, the southwestern corner of Arizona and next to New Mexico, and along that portion of the southern border of the United States, visiting primarily with the people that were in charge of border security, the Border Patrol and the ranchers who live along the border.
Let me talk about the ranchers first. One of those ranchers, Mr. Krentz, a year ago was murdered on his ranch, apparently by illegals coming into the United States. He was gunned down and killed. The culprits that committed that crime, by the way, have not been brought to justice.
I met with other ranchers in the entire region and just asked them the question: Tell me what it's like to live on the border of the United States and Mexico as a ranch owner. And they went on forever and forever and told me things that I was just really somewhat surprised about, how they feel like the border is wide open, that people cross across their ranches.
People come in, they destroy their property, they destroy their water lines. All of this costs money to the ranchers and, of course, they have to be the ones that pick up the bill for the destruction on their property.
And they don't feel safe about the people that cross into the United States across their land. They feel like the Federal Government has really not protected them and their rights and seems to neglect them, even though the Border Patrol, who I also met with, I believe, is doing as good a job as they possibly can do. I want to make that clear. The Border Patrol is doing as good a job as they can do, as we will let them do as a nation. And they are trying to protect the border the best that they possibly can.
And so I talked to both groups. But in reality, the people who live there are very concerned about their own safety and the consequences they have to pay for people illegally coming into the United States.
I heard something that was kind of surprising to me. When illegals, not all, but when some come into the United States and they are captured by Border Patrol, some of them ask the question, are they in the 9th court or the 10th court? And I said, what are they talking about, the 9th court or the 10th court? Well, what they're talking about is the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals or the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. You see, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, that is a Federal appellate court, has jurisdiction that includes Arizona but goes up to the New Mexico border.
And so when illegals cross into the United States near New Mexico or Arizona, some of them ask the question, am I in the 9th court, which would be in Arizona, or the 10th Circuit Court, of which the jurisdiction is New Mexico? And the reason for that, in my opinion, those two courts have different reputations about enforcing the rule of law on the border. And, of course, those that cross into the United States hope if they are caught the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals would eventually have jurisdiction over their case when in their perception it's a much more friendly court to folks who cross in illegally than the 10th Circuit. So I thought that was somewhat interesting.
They are also given, when they come into the United States, if captured, their property. Some of them, you will find a whole list of things and places they can go, the churches that give them sanctuary, places that they can go for medical help. And they are given, in a very organized way, what they can do when they come into the United States. That is provided in some cases by the coyotes that make money off those immigrants who come into the United States, because immigrants have to pay the coyote money. And sometimes the coyotes and the drug cartels all work together because, you see, drugs and people are going north, and money and guns are going south because, you see, Mexico doesn't protect its border any better than the United States does.
But in any event, while I was down there in the corner of Arizona, I learned firsthand about the seriousness to the ranchers, the people who live on the land, their concerns about the fact that they believe that the border is not secure. In reality, they have to worry about their own safety on a daily basis.
After visiting a corner of the southeastern corner of Arizona, we moved and traveled across Interstate 10 to Interstate 8 over here to San Luis, Arizona. So that travels, goes up to San Luis across Interstate 10, Interstate 10 turns into Interstate 8, comes all the way across Arizona into California, goes into Yuma, Arizona, and I went down here into the southwestern corner of the State of New Mexico to also see what that border was like.
Now, coming across Interstate 8, right here, Interstate 8, we pulled off the side of the road to the Sonora National Reserve, and that is a national reserve that the Federal Government controls, because I wanted to see the Sonora National Reserve.
Interestingly enough, you get about a quarter of a mile, almost a half-mile off of Interstate 8 right up here by the Sonora Desert, and you come across this sign. This sign is facing toward Mexico. So Interstate 8 would be to this direction, and Mexico would be behind the sign. How far behind the sign? It's 80 miles to the Mexican border. And here is a big sign that says, ``Traveling Caution: Smuggling and Illegal Immigration May Be Encountered in This Area.''
So, it seems to me that the Federal Government's answer to border security is to warn people that it is a smuggling and illegal immigration area. Once again, this sign is not on the border. This sign is 80 miles this side of the border. So, what is the government saying? Are they just ceding that entire portion of Arizona to the drug cartels, saying it's a smuggling area and that you need to take care of yourself because we can't protect you? I don't know. But I was somewhat surprised to see that our Federal Government's answer to border security was to erect this sign and other signs that are similar to it. I don't believe, of course, that's the answer to border security. You wouldn't need these signs if the border were secure in reality, not in just political statements that seem to be made by different individuals.
The Texas Department of Public Safety has issued some statistics regarding cross-border crime. I have already mentioned about how the 34.5 percent of the people in local county jails on the border are foreign nationals. But just since 2010, January 2010, the Texas Department of Public Safety has identified 22 murders, 24 assaults, 15 shootings and 5 kidnappings, among other crimes, directly related to spillover violence from Mexico.
Now sometimes we hear this comment: Well, the violence in Mexico isn't coming to the United States. The question is, is the crime from Mexico coming into the United States? We have already shown that that is occurring because 34 percent of the people in those local jails are committing crimes, and they're foreign nationals. But also the violence is coming into the United States because of the statistics that I just gave you.
And now we learn of another phenomenon that is taking place. You don't hear much about it because the victims of these crimes don't say much about it. People who live in border towns, the populous border towns in the United States, periodically would get somebody who would come to their front door, or they would get an email or a text from someone who says, we know your cousin who lives in Mexico, and unless you pay us so much protection money, your cousin in Mexico is going to disappear, something to that effect. So we hear reports of that, extortion on the American side of the border. This is primarily among Hispanic Americans.
And what do they do? Well, they may or may not report it. What they, I think, generally do is pay the extortion because they want their relative in Mexico on the other side of the border to be safe. So we have that extortion racket taking place. If the border were secure, that certainly would not have occurred. So it concerns me that we have that crime on the American side.
Going back to the southern border of Arizona, I was asking the Border Patrol, which was very gracious and explained a lot of their operations to me, how do they bring drugs into the United States? And they said every way they can bring them into the United States. One of the ways that they are using now is the concept of ultralights. An ultralight, for lack of a better description, is a kite that has a motor on it. One person can fly that at very low altitude, and they bring in 200 or 300 pounds of drugs into the United States. They never land the ultralight into the U.S.; they just fly across from Mexico into Arizona and they drop their load, 200, 300 pounds of drugs, and then they fly back to Mexico. Then there is someone at a rendezvous point who picks up those drugs.
I say that because the drug cartels are using every means necessary to exploit the open borders and do everything they can to make sure that they bring in those drugs. And they will continue to do so.
The Border Patrol is the agency that we have to protect the border of the United States. Like I said, I think they are doing as good a job as we will let them do. But primarily the Border Patrol patrols the border up to 25-35 miles inside the United States. That is their duty. That is their jurisdiction, the place that they are supposed to protect the U.S. Past that 35 miles or so, they don't patrol that. That is somebody else's responsibility.
Now, of course the bad guys know that is the duty of the Border Patrol, to patrol that section of the border. So when people are smuggled into the United States, when drugs are smuggled into the United States, the goal is to get past the Border Patrol demarcation line because once you do that, you are pretty much, in my opinion, home free to get into the United States with people or drugs. So that is the area of their primary concern, and it is certainly the area of the jurisdiction that they are trying to patrol the best they can.
I have asked the Border Patrol: Tell me how you do this. And I think they use as many different means as they can to patrol the border. They will have vehicles go up and down the border. They will have Border Patrol agents behind the border. They will have some use of the National Guard behind the border with the use of electronic equipment to view what takes place on the border. So they use the equipment that they can. But they obviously don't have enough Border Patrol agents to be directly on the border. So they have some on the border and some behind the border monitoring the activity of the people coming into the United States. And then they try to catch those that they can.
When I was visiting with one of the Border Patrol agents, this is a photograph of one of their vehicles. It is a typical Border Patrol vehicle that patrols near the border of the United States and Mexico. Now, Mr. Speaker, you notice that this vehicle has steel mesh on the windshield and on the side windows. It has steel mesh even above the lights, the red lights on top. So I asked the Border Patrol agent that drives this vehicle: Explain to me the steel enclosure you have on your vehicle.
He said here is what happens: we will drive close to the border. As we drive close to the border, there are people on the other side of the border who, when they see us, start throwing rocks at us. They throw them over the fence. If we don't have this protection--and they are not little bitty pebbles, these are rocks--they throw them over the fence and break the windshield. The Border Patrol agents are injured.
They do that for various reasons. One of those reasons is a diversion. They will try to divert the attention of a Border Patrol agent at one location so that other folks illegally can sneak into the United States.
Now, we don't hear much about assaults on Border Patrol agents unless somebody is murdered, which has occurred. But in the last couple of years, assaults on Border Patrol agents by people illegally coming into the United States is about 1,000 a year. A thousand assaults on Border Patrol agents a year in the last couple of years; and they are by every means necessary, including the rock throwers who try to injure Border Patrol agents.
So you can see the relentlessness of some people who want to come into the United States. They violate the law, of course, by coming here illegally. And they will continue to violate the law and take on our Border Patrol agents, even by assaulting them, so they can sneak into the United States.
So it seems to me, Mr. Speaker, maybe we need to refocus on the primary mission of the Federal Government and its responsibility. The Federal Government does have the responsibility under the Constitution to protect the American people, and the United States Government should do that.
Now, the United States protects the borders of other nations. We protect the border of Afghanistan with Pakistan. We are protecting the Korean border between the two Koreas. We protect the borders of other nations, and we use our military to do it. Why don't we have the same resolve to protect the American border, both borders, the southern border and the northern border? Because, in my opinion, we don't have the moral will to do so. We should make sure that we understand that people, and other people should understand, you don't come to the United States without permission. It is the rule of law: you don't come to the United States without permission.
Now, we have to solve that immigration issue. That is a different issue, but you can't solve that issue until you solve the issue of people illegally coming into the United States. You know, we are getting everybody. We are getting the good, the bad, and the ugly. And right now, we're getting a lot of bad and ugly crossing into the United States. So the rule of law must be enforced by the Federal Government. That is their duty.
Now, many of us do not believe the Federal Government has secured the border. Obviously, people in Arizona feel that way because they have passed legislation to try to protect their own State using State law enforcement. Of course, the Federal Government's answer to that was rather than help Arizona, sue Arizona. Take them to court. You know, it's kind of like this sign. Their answer to border security is erect a few signs and sue States that try to protect themselves. Why don't we deal in reality and make sure that the border is secure and make sure that it is an area that is safe on both sides. By securing our side, we can protect the Mexican side as well. Of course, we need to work with the Mexican Government to do so. They are our neighbors to the south.
While the United States now has decided to go into Libya and spend $100 million or $200 million a week, I don't know, by bombing that country, maybe we should come back home and focus on national security in the United States and spend that money on border security and securing the United States at the border because it is not secure in spite of what the Secretary of Homeland Security has said.
Border Patrol, it seems to me, should have the mission to secure the border. I will say again, they are doing as good a job as we will let them do, but they cannot stop people from coming into the United States, although they are trying to. When they had those vehicles going up and down in front of the border, that keeps people from coming across. We have fences in some appropriate areas. We don't have fences everywhere, but we have some fencing.
Also, the Border Patrol knows they cannot stop people from crossing so they try to catch them if you can. That is the phrase that I think is our policy: catch them if you can. In other words, they cross into the United States. We see them, we try to catch them, but once we catch them, they become our problem. And then we have to send them through the entire legal process, as we should, but they are our problem. They become our medical problem. They become our prison problem if they go to prison if they have committed a felony. Then we have to deal with them, and we have to try to get them back to the country they belong to, in spite of those countries that refuse to take back criminal aliens. So it is catch them if you can.
Why don't we rethink that and prevent people from crossing into the United States? If our policy was border security not behind the border security, but have security on the border, then people coming up to the border can't get across. Why, because there are more boots on the ground. And I think we should use whatever we have available.
We certainly should use the Border Patrol, but also maybe we should use the National Guard. We have a few National Guard troops that are down on the border, although they are being relieved; and their primary purpose is not to be on the border, but behind the border looking at cameras watching folks cross.
Now, that is great to watch people cross; but when they cross and they come into the United States, once again they become our problem once they have crossed. And we catch them if you can, and send them back home if we can.
So it would seem to me to be a better use of the National Guard to put them on the border. I have introduced legislation to put 10,000 National Guard troops on the 1,957-mile border between the United States and Mexico, and put them on the border to not allow people to cross into the United States.
It is the Federal Government's responsibility of national security to protect the people, so the Federal Government should pay for that and get the money out of the Department of Defense or somewhere, re-appropriate money to have the National Guard paid for, but put them under the supervision of the four State Governors so that the Governors can control their own border and protect them from entering the United States unlawfully no matter who it is.
I do not believe that we can say our border is secure when the Government Accountability Office, by their own statistics, say that only 15 percent of the border is airtight. That doesn't seem like a winning percentage to me. And when they say under the best circumstances, 44 percent partially secure. What does that mean? Well, it is sort of secure, but sort of not. But when you have 56 percent of the border is wide open spaces for anybody that wants to come back and forth, that is not protecting the dignity and the sovereignty of the United States.
So it is long past time we quit talking about border security and actually secure the border from people coming into the United States without permission. Everyone. And to say that the crime doesn't occur in the United States, well, it does. Not just to mention the border county jails that I mentioned, the 27 percent that are in Federal penitentiaries that are foreign nationals that are illegally in the United States, but all of the drugs that are sold throughout the United States, those are all criminal gangs, primarily, that are working with the drug cartels in Mexico and Colombia selling those drugs.
So the crime affects the United States. The insecurity of the border is something that all of us pay for. We pay for it in every way possible. Whether it's with health care, whether it's with education, we pay for it in the criminal justice system. Americans pay and legal immigrants pay.
The United States has the greatest, the most liberal immigration policy in the world. We let more people into our country legally every year than does any other country on its own. So we have to fix that immigration issue, but we have to secure the border first because, when all is said and done, so far more has been said and less has been done.
I urge my fellow Members of the House of Representatives that we come back home, that we come back to the United States, that we think about the security or insecurity of our borders, and that we make sure that the Federal Government under the Constitution fulfills its first obligation--to protect Americans.
And that's just the way it is.