Analysts looking through the new border security deal in the Senate say it includes waivers that would let Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano refuse to build any new fencing or install the new technology the plan lays out in close detail.
The senators who struck the deal late this week said they were trying to take the decision-making away from the Obama administration and ensure that new fencing and technology would be deployed, but the latest version gives Ms. Napolitano or her successors the ability to waive or ignore those requirements.
In the case of the fence, the legislation reads that “nothing in this subsection shall require the secretary to install fencing, or infrastructure that directly results from the installation of such fencing, in a particular location along the southern border, if the secretary determines that the use or placement of such resources is not the most appropriate means to achieve and maintain effective control over the southern border at such location.”
In the case of technology, the sponsors said they wanted to ensure the technology gets deployed. They listed exact technology they wanted in every one of the border’s sectors, including ordering 685 ground sensors, 50 towers and 73 fixed cameras be deployed to Arizona’s two sectors.
However, the bill also gives Ms. Napolitano the power to change all of that “if the secretary determines that an alternate or new technology is at least as effective as the technologies described in paragraph (3) and provides a commensurate level of security.”
The bill would require her to notify Congress 60 days after her decision to change the deployment.
SEE ALSO: Napolitano approves Senate’s border security plan
Eleven Republicans have signed onto the new border security proposal, along with four Democrats. Of the Republicans, four were authors of the original bill, while the others were looking to stiffen the security aspects of the bill in order to be able to vote for the legalization.
“All along, the border security language in the existing bill has been a concern for me and many of my colleagues,” said Sen. Dean Heller, Nevada Republican and one of the seven Republicans who said it may win his support for the bill. “This proposal is a realistic and measured approach that will finally solve one of the most difficult problems facing our broken immigration system.”
The crux of the immigration debate has been how much trust to put in the Obama administration to follow through on border security.
A number of Republicans said they didn’t trust Ms. Napolitano, who has already declared the border secure, to do what the GOP thought was needed.
Democrats, meanwhile, have fought to keep out elements that would delay the full pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
Late Friday Ms. Napolitano blessed the new border security deal, reversing her position that no new fencing or manpower surge was needed.
“The president has made clear that commonsense immigration reform legislation must include measures to strengthen border security, create a path to earned citizenship, crack down on employers that hire undocumented workers, and streamline our legal immigration system so everyone is playing by the same set of rules,” Ms. Napolitano said in a terse statement her office released. “The border security amendment agreed to by a bipartisan group of Senators is in line with that criteria, it will devote important additional resources to the robust border security system this Administration has put in place and strengthen what was already an unmatched piece of border security legislation.”
• Stephen Dinan can be reached at email@example.com.
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