Time to get serious about securing the Texas border

Photo by Josh Denmark

During the course of the Republican primary for Congressional District 19, I made a pledge that, should I be nominated, one of my first trips would be to tour Texas' border with Mexico and see, first-hand, the challenges faced by border agents tasked with protecting our sovereign soil and our families.

Rather than taking the "official" Obama Administration tour, which I understand is little more than appointees offering elected leaders a sanitized and unrepresentative show, I wanted to see what it was actually like when government agencies thought no one was looking.

The tour I went on, hosted by Breitbart Texas managing editor Brandon Darby, took me to Laredo, not just along the border but also in neighborhoods close to the border. It went late into the night, and what I experienced was shocking and disappointing.

I saw an open and unsecure border.

Even in a large city like Laredo, there are virtually no physical barriers between our two countries. Considering the chaos and violent crime happening just yards away on the other side of the border by rampant drug cartel activity, this is an outright failure of the federal government.

If you combine the lack of physical barriers in densely populated urban centers, the lack of personnel to patrol and enforce the law and the Obama Administration's policies that both hamstring law enforcement agents and encourage illegal immigration, you have no effective border security. How can this be the case in the most affluent, advanced and free country in the world? If the axiom is true that "there is no freedom without security" and, according the Constitution, our government's central role is to "secure our freedoms," then the federal government has failed to serve the people in its most important mission.

The bottom line is this: Our nation needs to get serious and have the political courage necessary to ensure America's borders are secured in a way that stops the drug traffickers, human smugglers, waves of illegal immigrants and, God forbid, terrorist infiltrators from taking advantage of this vulnerable situation.

We do need physical barriers in strategic areas where the U.S. Border Patrol instructs us will be most effective. For other parts of the border, we need to leverage technology such as thermal imaging cameras, motion detectors and aerostats to help us manage a virtual wall that can direct our patrols to accurately intercept those illegally crossing into America.

We also need thousands more agents to better cover the vast expanse of our border. Even more importantly, we need to empower those agents to do their jobs and not be held back by rules and regulations that prevent them from carrying out their sworn duty. How could we ask them to risk their lives to protect us without equipping them to do so? It is disrespectful, demoralizing and dangerous.

Perhaps the most important reform we can make is in our own thinking — rather than talking about border security, we need a national commitment to get it done.

I understand the arguments for a more efficient legal immigration system, and I appreciate the labor shortages in important industries like agriculture and construction. These and other broken components of our current immigration system certainly need to be addressed. But while many people are coming to the United States because they are desperate for a better life for their family and see America as their beacon of hope, we cannot reward them when they violate our laws. Anyone who wishes to enjoy the exceptional freedoms and opportunities of our nation must be willing to do their part by obeying our laws, paying taxes and swearing an allegiance to our Constitution.

Further, unabated illegal immigration, coupled with Obama's ill-advised refugee programs, pose real problems that threaten both the physical and fiscal security of our nation. Currently, we have no way of screening the good guys from the bad guys, and we cannot even afford the social service programs for our own people.

I am proud of the fact that America is a nation of immigrants, and I believe that our diverse population — unified under common values — is a key attribute of American exceptionalism. But we are also a nation of laws that are in place to help keep us safe, maintain order and preserve the freedoms we often take for granted.

We must respect the rule of law and secure our border. We owe this to American families who have lost loved ones because we repeatedly allowed violent criminals to roam our streets. We owe this to every mother and father who watches helplessly as their child suffers through the horrors of heroine and methamphetamine addiction because drugs are flowing across the border and into our neighborhoods and schools. We owe this to the people in Mexico, as an unsecured border is neither humanitarian nor compassionate — allowing entire families to be extorted and oppressed by the cartels.

This November, I hope voters will hold all candidates accountable for their commitment to doing what should have been done long ago — investing in and ensuring America's borders are secure, protected and under our complete control.

Jodey Arrington

U.S. Representative, 19th district, Texas