In the debate over immigration reform that is the hot topic in Washington, one important element has been notably absent from the discussion surrounding these reforms: homeland security. Last week, I joined a congressional tour beginning in San Diego and working east to Texas with several of my colleagues, led by Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul. While my views on amnesty and reforming our broken guest worker system have not changed, this trip opened my eyes to the urgent need to provide additional resources to bolster our defenses against drug cartels whose capabilities are far-reaching.
The cartels on the other side of the border have access to funds and expertise that are a serious challenge for our border agents. On our tour, I learned that border agents have identified over 160 tunnels along the length of our border, some as deep as 8 stories to avoid radar detection by our enforcement officers. Perhaps most troubling is the fact that the cartels are beginning to use similar tactics to those employed in Afghanistan against our military, such as booby-trapping tunnels and rigging improvised explosive devices (IED's). The potential for collusion between these cartels in our backyard and openly hostile foreign actors is cause for concern.
Although apprehension rates and turn-backs have steadily improved over the last 20 years, there is more work to be done. After speaking with border security officials, I learned the greatest necessity is smart, targeted investments that will be cost-effective and will augment the good work and improvements that are being made every day. By making investments in technology, maintaining and investing in physical barriers, improving cross-agency cooperation, and augmenting our enforcement patrols where needed, we will see significant improvements that can help lock down the border.
The best way to form an opinion of anything is to experience it for oneself, firsthand and unfiltered. The drug cartels operating south of our border are a real threat to our national security. We have vastly improved our enforcement and apprehension techniques over the last 20 years, but the cartels are quick to learn. We need a mobile, adaptable, fluid border security strategy that addresses real issues on the ground, rather than fitting into a set of political talking points. Over the next months, I look forward to framing our debate in this light and moving toward a solution that will prove cost-effective, workable, and will keep the American people safe from harm.