The privilege of representing the 23rd Congressional District of Texas is something I do not take lightly, and I work hard each day to ensure that my votes in Washington reflect the views and best interests of my constituents. I represent more than 800 miles of U.S.-Mexico border, more than any other Member of Congress.
La Frontera forms a unique social and economic connection throughout the district. From El Paso to Del Rio and on to Eagle Pass, each section of the border faces unique geographical, technological and cultural challenges that must be addressed separately.
My stance on the border wall has not changed, because the facts have not changed. There is no question that we must secure our border, but building a wall from sea to shining sea is the most expensive and least effective way to go about doing so. A one-size-fits-all solution won’t address all of the border’s complexities.
While physical barriers are one of many tools and may work well in urban areas, gaining operational control of the entire southern border will require a sector-by-sector approach that adequately empowers the men and women on the ground with technology, resources, and manpower.
I am in favor of investing in technology and personnel, instead of a third century solution. We also must implement an intelligence-led border security approach to combat the 19 criminal organizations currently operating in Mexico. The reality is that these are problems for Mexico as well, and there are a number of units we can be working with to stop these problems before they arrive at our borders. This will keep people on both sides of the border safer.
I am often asked why I don’t support a border wall, and one of the reasons is because it hasn’t worked in the past. There are already almost 700 miles of fencing along the 2,000 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border. Much of it is in need of repairs from human smugglers and cartels repeatedly digging under, climbing over and cutting through it. On one of my trips to the border, I saw a portion of the existing fencing that was used by drug traffickers as a ramp to drive a full-size tractor-trailer into the U.S.
Additionally, many of the areas along the Texas-Mexico border are so remote, that border agents measure response time in hours or days. In these places, a fence is not a deterrent. These areas need surveillance technology, infrastructure and most importantly, personnel. If there are not agents in place to respond to crossings or technology to monitor activity, a wall will do little to effectively secure our border.
Alternatively, we should be able to detect when someone illegally crosses the border, monitor them with a camera or unmanned aerial vehicle, and keep track of the threat until we are able to deploy our most important resources: the men and women in our border patrol.
There is no question that we must secure our border and enforce our nation’s laws. But the last thing we should do is limit ourselves to only one tool in the toolbox. I hope that we can begin talking about strategies, rather than tactics, and measurable benchmarks. When we measure the effectiveness of border security, we shouldn’t be measuring how many miles of fence or wall we have. We should instead measure whether we see a notable decrease in human trafficking, drug smuggling and illegal crossings.
These are lessons I have learned by proactively listening to the concerns of constituents, local law enforcement, landowners and Border Patrol. Until we get it right, this is the message I will carry to my colleagues in Washington and continue to fight for.
A former undercover CIA officer, entrepreneur and cybersecurity expert, Will Hurd is the U.S. Representative for the 23rd Congressional District of Texas. In Washington, he serves on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, as Vice Chair of the Maritime and Border Security Subcommittee on the Committee for Homeland Security, and as the Chairman of the Information Technology Subcommittee on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee