A border security bill that includes $10 billion in spending for a border wall—”wall, fencing, technology, air assets, and other barriers”—was passed by the House Homeland Security Committee on Oct. 5.
In addition to the wall funding, the bill would add 5,000 Border Patrol agents and 5,000 Customs and Border Protection officers.
The bill, named “Border Security for America Act,” includes $5 billion to help combat illicit drug trafficking at major ports of entry—most drugs enter the country over bridges and airports, rather than over the border.
Funding up to $35 million would be available to deploy the National Guard to help with aviation and intelligence support along the southwest border, especially in Texas, which has called for help in securing the border. Texas has one of the more difficult borders to secure, due to much of the border being the Rio Grande. Most of the nation’s illegal border crossers come over the river in the Rio Grande Valley.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Michael McCaul (R–Texas), also targets visa overstayers by fully rolling out biometric entry and exit systems at all air, land, and sea ports of entry. A significant portion of the illegal immigrants in the United States are visa overstayers. In 2016, more than 544,000 people on visas who were supposed to leave the United States, did not, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Committee votes for the bill followed party lines with an 18–12 split and, if brought to a vote in the House, it is expected to pass.
However, it would likely die in the Senate, where it needs 60 votes. Republicans hold 52 seats in the Senate and the Democratic leadership has vowed to oppose a wall.
The construction of a border wall along the southwest border has been a key promise of President Donald Trump, and one he is adamant in fulfilling.
The new bill is aligned with Trump’s executive order, “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements” introduced during the first week of his presidency.
The order asked for the “immediate construction of a physical wall on the southern border, monitored and supported by adequate personnel so as to prevent illegal immigration, drug and human trafficking, and acts of terrorism.”
Trump has consistently mentioned the construction of a border wall throughout his presidency, and tweeted on Sept. 14: “The WALL, which is already under construction in the form of new renovation of old and existing fences and walls, will continue to be built.”
Submissions for wall prototypes were solicited earlier in the year and the eight winning companies broke ground on their designs in San Diego at the end of September. They are expected to take 30 days to build.
Four of the prototypes will be made of concrete, while the other four will be constructed of alternate or “other materials,” according to Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
“All eight prototypes will be between 18 and 30 feet high and designed to deter illegal crossings in the area in which they are constructed and will inform future design standards which will likely continue to evolve to meet the U.S. Border Patrol’s requirements,” CBP said in a statement.