FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                           PRESS CONTACT:

January 22, 2015                                                                           Brenda Rangel 956.564.1527


PRESS RELEASE: Vela Amendment Seeks to Block Further Construction of Fence on Southern Border


WASHINGTON – On Wednesday night, U.S. Representative Filemon Vela (D-Brownsville) offered an amendment to the Border Security First Act (HR 399) considered by the House Homeland Security Committee. The amendment would strike a mandate to construct an additional 37 miles of fencing on the southwest border. The bill, introduced by House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, would direct additional equipment and resources to the southern border, including unmanned aerial vehicles, new border fencing and National Guard troops.   

The House Homeland Security Committee concluded its work a little past 10 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Wednesday.

U.S. Rep. Vela, who was recently named the top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee, delivered the following statement in support of his amendment:

“Mr. Chairman, the bill before us today includes 37 miles of new fence on our southern border. My amendment would strike the language mandating that the Department of Homeland Security construct this unnecessary border barrier.

“It makes no sense to me, knowing how historically obsolete the Chinese Wall has become and that we tore down the Berlin Wall in the latter part of the last century, to have built a wall in the 21st century which divides the countries of the United States and Mexico given the historical context of the relationship, not to mention the significant economic forces which our two countries share.

“The border fence along the Rio Grande River was erected in response to the Terrorist Acts of 9/11 despite the fact that the terrorists who perpetrated those acts entered this country through airports nowhere near the Rio Grande River. The Millennium bomber entered this country through the Canadian/Washington State border, and the Tsarnaev brothers were granted political asylum in this country and had entered this country through airports in the Northeastern Corridor.

“The reality is that some in this country are convinced that border fencing will stop the flow of illegal immigrants, human trafficking and drug smuggling. But the fact is that it will not. As I have mentioned before, the root causes of these three issues really relate to issues of economic development and cartel violence in Mexico and Central America. Until those issues are addressed, it will be very difficult to stop the flow of illegal migration, human trafficking and drug smuggling. Today’s bill does nothing to address those concerns.

“Fences don’t make our communities safer, and in some cases they make our border less safe as they drive those seeking to unlawfully enter this country to areas that are more remote. This forces Border Patrol Agents to patrol more and more distant areas further away from their support systems.

“The bottom line is that fencing won’t stop people who are intent on crossing our borders even as we are building fences that are taller and wider in an effort to secure our nation. 

“We are sitting here on the ‘Homeland Security’ Committee with the same goal – protecting our nation from those who wish to do us harm. Let’s look beyond the old, failed policies of the past and focus on the source of the real threats to our nation and our security.”

The Vela Amendment was defeated on a party-line vote, and the Homeland Security Committee approved HR 399 for consideration by the full House of Representatives.  The House leadership has suggested that the measure will be scheduled for floor debate next week.


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