TransBorder Profile - Border Security and Enforcement First Caucus


The U.S. House of Representatives has its restrictionist Immigration Reform Caucus. It recently created Senate counterpart is the Border Security and Enforcement First Caucus.

Formed in March 2008, the new restrictionist caucus doesn’t include senators from states along the southwestern border with
Mexico or other states with large immigrant populations. Instead, all but one of its members represent southern states with relatively small numbers of immigrants but with large anti-immigrant constituencies. The lone exception is Sen. Inofe, who represents Oklahoma. All members are Republicans.


The founding caucus members were: Sens. David Vitter (R- Louisiana), Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina), Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama), James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), Elizabeth Dole (R-North Carolina), Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia), Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia), Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) and Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi). Leading voices of the caucus are Sen. Sessions and Sen. Vitter, who serves as caucus chairman.


According to its mission statement: “The Caucus is a platform to let Americans know that some in the U. S. Senate are continuing to make sure that the laws already on the books will be enforced, act as the voice of those concerned citizens who have expressed their opinions time and time again for interior enforcement and border security, push for stronger boarder security and interior enforcement legislation, and work together in the U.S. Senate to defeat future legislation that may be considered amnesty.”


Alabama’s Sen. Jeff Sessions is leading the legislative efforts of the restrictionist caucus, which is calling for “full Senate consideration” of 15 restrictionist bills, many of them sponsored by Sessions. One bill spearheaded by Sessions calls for a “mandatory minimum” sentence for those who illegally enter the United States ranging from 10 days for a first-time violation to 20 years for “felons and repeat offenders.”

The caucus says that each bill in the “enforcement-focused package represents a specific step toward: securing America’s borders; increasing enforcement at the workplace; and ultimately, restoring law and order to our nation’s broken immigration system.” The bills are described as “achievable, bite-sized steps that the Republican coalition believes a bi-partisan Congress should be able to accomplish between now and November.”

The Border Security and Enforcement First Caucus has adopted the "attrition through enforcement" strategy advocated by restrictionionist groups such as Numbers USA, Center for Immigration Studies, and Federation for American Immigration Reform.


Copying the language found on NumbersUSA website, the caucus says: “The principal mission of the Caucus is to promote a true, achievable alternative: attrition through enforcement. Living illegally in the United States will become more difficult and less satisfying over time when the government – at ALL LEVELS – enforces all of the laws already on the books.”


Explaining why he joined the Caucus, Sen. Isakson said he wants to elevate border security as the number one concern of Americans. “There’s no greater domestic issue in this country,” he said, “than the problems on our southern border with Mexico, and it is time that Congress makes a commitment to make border security a reality…America is too important, and this issue is too critical to the American people.”


Declaring his support for the “attrition through enforcement” strategy, Sen. Chambliss says that if the government enforces existing laws, “Illegal immigrants will then have no alternative but to leave. Unfortunately, Senate Democrats continue to block measures to stem the tide of illegal immigration.” Chamblis introduced introduced "The Effective Immigration Enforcement Partnerships Act of 2008" and I formed the Border Security and Enforcement First Caucus in the U.S. Senate.

 “I am proud to join together with my fellow Republican Senators as part of the Border Security Caucus to work toward real and achievable immigration reform,” said Sen. Inofe, “Americans across the political spectrum weighed in on this issue during last summer’s immigration debate, sending a clear message that the American public demands immigration reform without a path to amnesty. What they want and deserve is for the federal government to take existing laws seriously and secure the borders.”

In May 2008 the Border Security caucus too a position against an amendment to the War Supplemental funding bill that would have authorized a temporary worker program for farmworkers. Sen. Vitter said, “When will the amnesty proponents learn that the American people want border security and enforcement as their immigration reform policy, not sweeping amnesty for millions of illegal aliens? I join my colleagues in urging the Democratic leader to remove the Feinstein AG Jobs provision.”

 - Tom Barry, July 15, 2008