Cornyn’s bor­der plan doesn’t fo­cus on a wall

Se­na­tor’s ‘lay­ered’ $15B pro­posal re­lies more on tech­nol­ogy, per­son­nel.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Maria Re­cio Amer­i­can-States­man spe­cial cor­re­spon­dent

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn laid out a $15 bil­lion, fouryear bor­der se­cu­rity plan Thurs­day that en­vi­sions more per­son­nel and the use of new tech­nol­ogy — and a bar­rier for parts of the bor­der, but not all of it.

The strat­egy, which the Texas Repub­li­can calls a “lay­ered” ap­proach, dif­fers from Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s em­pha­sis on a wall.

A bor­der wall, Cornyn said, is “an im­por­tant part of the story,” but it’s “not the whole story.”

Cornyn also op­posed spend­ing $1.6 bil­lion, ap­proved by the House, on ini­tial seg­ments of the wall.

“What we need is a plan first; fund­ing should come af­ter the plan, not first,” Cornyn, joined by three other GOP sen­a­tors, told re­porters Thurs­day.

Repub­li­can sen­a­tors face fierce op­po­si­tion from Democrats on ap­prov­ing the wall fund­ing, which Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has staked out as a non­starter.

Now wall op­po­nents can point

to Cornyn’s plan. “I would pre­fer to have a plan in place,” Cornyn said when asked about the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s plan to spend $1.6 bil­lion as soon as pos­si­ble.

He said fed­eral au­thor­i­ties should con­sult lo­cal of­fi­cials in shap­ing the bor­der strat­egy in each area. “Bor­der se­cu­rity is not a one-size-fits-all propo­si­tion,” said Cornyn, not­ing the dif­fer­ences be­tween ports of en­try in Hi­dalgo County in South Texas and San Diego in South­ern California.

Trump hasn’t backed away from his cam­paign promise to build a wall, and his cam­paign sent out a pe­ti­tion Wed­nes­day urg­ing his sup­port­ers to sign it and con­tact their sen­a­tors. “Let’s re­mind ev­ery sin­gle Se­na­tor the Amer­i­can VOT­ERS want this beau­ti­ful, im­pen­e­tra­ble wall con­structed,” Trump wrote. He de­scribed the House-passed $1.6 bil­lion as a “down pay­ment” to build the wall.

Cornyn, as ma­jor­ity whip and a bor­der state se­na­tor, has con­sid­er­able in­flu­ence on the process and is un­likely to push the ad­min­is­tra­tion po­si­tion for wall fund­ing in the next fis­cal year, which must be done by Oct. 1. Much will de­pend on who be­comes the new home­land se­cu­rity sec­re­tary af­ter Gen. John Kelly moved this week from that post to be­come the White House chief of staff.

Cornyn wouldn’t com­ment on whom he prefers to lead the depart­ment but when asked af­ter the news con­fer­ence about for­mer Gov. Rick Perry, now en­ergy sec­re­tary, and House Home­land Se­cu­rity Com­mit­tee Chair­man Michael McCaul, R-Austin, who are be­ing men­tioned as can­di­dates to head home­land se­cu­rity, he praised both. “I hired Mike when I was at­tor­ney gen­eral in Texas and think very highly of him,” he said.

The Home­land Se­cu­rity Depart­ment has taken bids on wall pro­to­types that of­fi­cials have promised will be built this sum­mer. U.S. Rep. Henry Cuel­lar, D-Laredo, told the Amer­i­can-States­man that an agency waiver of en­vi­ron­men­tal rules ear­lier this week for 14 miles of ex­ist­ing fenc­ing in San Diego in­cluded 1 mile that will be used to build the pro­to­types.

As for Trump’s cam­paign promise that Mex­ico would pay for the wall, Cornyn de­murred and said that Congress had to ful­fill its func­tion. Any ef­fort to get Mex­ico to re­im­burse the U.S., “we’ll leave that to the pres­i­dent,” he said.

Cornyn’s bill, called the Build­ing Amer­ica’s Trust Act, has an im­por­tant co-spon­sor, Sen. Ron John­son, R-Wis., chair­man of the Se­nate Home­land Se­cu­rity Com­mit­tee, who at­tended the news con­fer­ence. “I’m com­pletely sup­port­ive,” John­son said of the bill, de­scrib­ing it as a “well-thought out piece of leg­is­la­tion.” Also at the an­nounce­ment were Sen. John Bar­rasso, R-Wyo., and Sen. Thom Til­lis, R-N.C. The bill calls for:

A mul­ti­lay­ered in­fra­struc­ture plan for the bor­der, in­clud­ing walls, fenc­ing, lev­ees and tech­nol­ogy.

An in­crease in fed­eral agents at ports of en­try and on the bor­der as well as more im­mi­gra­tion judges and pros­e­cu­tors.

More re­sources for state and lo­cal law en­force­ment to fight drug traf­fick­ing.

A pro­hi­bi­tion on “sanc­tu­ary cities” by set­ting penal­ties on fed­eral funds for cities that don’t co­op­er­ate with fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials.

End­ing “catch and re­lease” of un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants, and it in­cludes “Kate’s Law,” a crack­down on crim­i­nal re­peat of­fend­ers who are in the coun­try il­le­gally, named for Kathryn Steinle, who was killed in San Francisco by a felon who had been de­ported mul­ti­ple times.

J. SCOTT AP­PLE­WHITE / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Sen. John Cornyn, RTexas, with Sen. Thom Til­lis, R-N.C., dis­plays a Texas-Mex­ico bor­der wall photo as he de­tails his bor­der plan Thurs­day in Wash­ing­ton.

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