It only took a three-day trip to the U.S.-Mexican border for Kansas Congressman Kevin Yoder to conclude that security remains a big concern.
“I just think we have a long way to go,” said Yoder, an Overland Park Republican.
Yoder said portions of the border, including the area around San Diego, are much improved compared to recent years. But other parts are so loose that fewer than half of those crossing illegally are arrested.
“Tons and tons of illegal drugs are being imported across the border, and some of that ends up in Kansas City,” he said.
The two-term congressman concluded that he can’t support the comprehensive immigration bill that’s passed the Senate. Before he can back a bill like that, he wants to see big improvements in security.
Yoder will long remember the dead body he saw floating face-down in the Rio Grande. Border agents immediately made calls reporting the body, but Yoder said as shocking as the sighting was for him, it appeared to be a routine development for security.
Along with several other members of Congress, Yoder visited border locations in California, Arizona and Texas. He said a border fence alone won’t solve the problem and that any surveillance effort must include aerial observation, infrared technology, more agents on the ground, and more motion detectors.
A fence is important mainly as a time-buying proposition for agents, Yoder said. The fence slows down illegal crossers and gives agents time to get to the scene.
A fool-proof, 100 percent secure border is a pipe dream. “It can’t be done,” Yoder said. “It’s like having a neighborhood free from crime.”
Also on the trip was Texas Rep. Mike McCaul, chair of the House Homeland Security committee.
Two other takeaways from the trip:
Yoder said interior security must be a component of immigration reform beyond the border for those that do make through our border security. That means allowing local law enforcement to assist in enforcing immigration laws if they want to do so.
An entry/exit system for visas is a must. Over 40 percent of the undocumented immigrants in the U.S. are from visa overstays, Yoder said.
No amount of border security can fix that. “We need a visa system that lets us know when people exit the country, and if they don't, alerts ICE,” Yoder said. “That doesn't exist right now and so we never know if someone overstays their visa until they have a connection with law enforcement in some other way.”