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OPINION-Immigration Reform Must Include Results On Border Security

John CornynEditor’s Note: The following op-ed piece was published in the Houston Chronicle on June 27.

I know of no one, including me, who believes our broken immigration system is acceptable.

And while Americans are an extra­ordinarily compassionate and generous people, they have learned from painful experience to be skeptical about endless Washington broken promises to restore law and order to our dysfunctional immigration system.

Border states, like Texas, have borne the brunt of the federal government's failure to deal effectively with this issue.

Now, more than ever, we don't need promises, we need guaranteed results.

Crucially, this requires Congress, among other things, to establish a legal definition of a "secure border" and make its attainment an irrevocable requirement in the broader context of immigration reform.

This has been the crux of my efforts to amend the bill, both in the Judiciary Committee and on the Senate floor, with my RESULTS amendment.

Unfortunately, the bill we're set to vote on amounts to just another unenforceable promise. For this reason, and others that follow, I cannot support it. We can and must do better.

For starters, it's based on dishonest accounting. Before the Schumer-Corker-Hoeven amendment was added (which increases spending by roughly $40 billion), the bill's proponents claimed it would reduce the deficit by $197 billion over 10 years. This is false.

The only way supporters are able to claim these "savings" in the first place is by raiding the Social Security Trust Fund to the tune of $211 billion. This is called "double-counting," and it's a favorite in Washington's cookbook of budget gimmickry.

The Gang of Eight effectively pledges to use the same money to pay for (a) the current bill, and (b) future Social Security benefits. This, of course, is impossible. An honest accounting of the numbers leaves us with a $14 billion increase in the deficit.

This is not to say that border security doesn't merit greater funding. But if we're going to spend taxpayer dollars, let's at least be honest about it.

It shouldn't take Obamacare-style accounting tricks to garner the necessary votes. Furthermore, any new spending must come with a guarantee that the border will, in fact, be secured and legal commerce facilitated.

That's why this bill is fundamentally flawed: It makes a lot of eyebrow-raising promises - such as doubling the number of Border Patrol agents and building an additional 700 miles of fencing - but it has no reliable mechanism for ensuring accountability and measuring results.

Rather, it requires only an ill-defined certification by the Secretary of Homeland Security, who can single-handedly determine whether or not the border is "secure." Americans should ask themselves: Do we want to place such tremendous power in the hands of a political appointee? I do not.

Our broken border is not a problem that can be fixed with money alone. Nor is it something that can be fixed with hastily drafted amendments that are long on symbolism but short on substance.

The solution, I believe, lies at the intersection of two deeply held American traits: compassion for our fellow man and respect for the rule of law. This bill was not a serious attempt to find that intersection.

This debate is not over - we've only reached halftime.

My hope is that the House of Representatives will rescue this bill by strengthening its security provisions. This will allow us to assemble a conference committee where we can deliver the guarantees and the results Texans deserve, not the hollow promises they've been getting. This will be a fundamental requirement for any bill to have a chance of passing both chambers of Congress.

We must get this right. The future of a great nation is at stake and the consequences will reverberate for generations.

Senator Cornyn serves on the Finance and Judiciary Committees.  He serves as the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee’s Immigration, Refugees and Border Security subcommittee. He served previously as Texas Attorney General, Texas Supreme Court Justice, and Bexar County District Judge.

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