Weekly Column of U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander June 10, 2007 “Listen to the Border State Governors”

Posted on June 8, 2007

When I was home in Tennessee during the immigration debate, I spent a lot of time listening and talking to Tennesseans about the immigration bill and some concerns they have. But of all the concerns, it boiled down to this: “We don't really trust you guys in Washington, DC, to fix this problem. You don't seem to be willing to do it.” Americans have, in many cases, lost faith that we even have the ability to fix the mess. I used to feel that way myself before I came here. I haven't been here that long - just 4 years. The Senate has put aside the immigration bill and is now turning to other matters. But we aren’t finished, and the bill still needs a lot of work. The Senate needs to pass a bill that secures our border before it does anything else, and we should keep working on it until we can get it right. So I have a suggestion that would increase the level of trust the American people would have in the ability of this government to enforce whatever law we pass. I am not suggesting it would solve everything or that we would regain trust overnight, but I am suggesting it would be a step forward. I think we should involve the governors of the border states between the United States and Mexico in determining whether the new border control system we put in place is actually working. The way the bill is written right now, before other provisions of the bill go into effect, the Department of Homeland Security must certify that it has established and demonstrated operational control of the entire U.S. - Mexico border once certain conditions are met. Those conditions include the hiring and training of 20,000 Border Patrol agents, 300 miles of vehicle barriers, 105 radar and camera towers and 31,500 detention beds. My amendment says we need sign-off that the border is in fact secure by three of the four governors on the United States-Mexico border, too. The governors of the border states are not in Washington, DC. They have not been infected with whatever is up here. They haven’t even been vaccinated. For that reason more Tennesseans trust the Governors. If the Governors of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas say ‘yes, the border is secure, we agree with the certification of the Department of Homeland Security,’ I think that would be good enough for most Americans. That is the point of my amendment. I say ask the Secretary of Homeland Security, pay attention to him or her, but also trust the leadership of the border states. Ask the border governors to agree with the Secretary of Homeland Security that the border is secure before we begin programs affecting illegal aliens, and I think the American people might buy it. We might begin to regain their trust, after 20 years of mismanagement, that we are willing to take seriously securing the border. # # #