Rep. Royce plans to push national-level version of contentious Arizona immigration law

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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Rep. Ed Royce, California Republican, is planning to introduce a national-level version of contentious Arizona state Senate Bill 1070, The Daily Caller has learned. Royce, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee’s Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade subcommittee, told TheDC his legislation would give state-level cops and local law enforcement nationwide the authority to enforce federal immigration laws.

Royce is planning to introduce the new legislation soon and said, in addition to giving state and local law enforcement more authority, it “establishes operational control of the border” by sending more fencing to the border and keeping the secretaries of Interior and Agriculture from over-regulating how Border Patrol officials put together fences and work on federal lands.

“All the Border Patrol agents are swearing by it [building a fence and keeping the regulatory powers of the secretaries of Interior and Agriculture at a minimum],” Royce said. “So, that’s part of establishing operational control.”

The third major part of Royce’s legislation would require Homeland Security to review all visas from certain “high-risk” consulate posts. He said the bill would require DHS to “sit down face-to-face” with every visa-holder from these high-risk posts and re-interview them to make sure they’re in compliance.

“What we want to do is set up a system where we are able to make certain that, when people come into the country on a visa, we know when they’re leaving and we know if they’ve left,” Royce said. He also said the bill would allow DHS to “target” individuals from countries with a history of aiding or abetting terrorists.

Rep. Steve King, Iowa Republican, said he supports the idea behind what Royce is trying to do, but that he’d have to read the language of Royce’s legislation before he joins as a cosponsor.

“Congress needs to say to the Department of the Interior and to the other agencies that our natural resources and sovereignty are being trampled by illegal immigration,” King told TheDC. “We need to continue to build a fence, a wall and a fence. It makes every officer we have more effective.”

Royce, King and Rep. Phil Gingrey, Georgia Republican, just finished a tour of the U.S.-Mexico border on Wednesday, and found a much different border security situation than Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told the country about on Monday. Royce said people in border communities “all perceived a much higher level of violence than they’ve seen in the past, much more vandalism and many more threats.”

“Basically, what you have is a situation where smugglers are so well-armed now with assault rifles and high-tech equipment like GPS cell phones and scanners,” Royce told TheDC in a phone interview from Tucson, Arizona. “One of the examples we were given by the Border Patrol here is that they [drug cartel members] have set up their own communication relay stations into Mexico, and, as a result of all of this, it’s affecting kidnappings, businessmen and ranchers and farmers are all affected by this.”

Before a University of Texas at El Paso audience on Monday, Napolitano said that the border was safe and that border security critics are exaggerating border problems for political purposes.

“It is inaccurate to state, as too many have, that the border is overrun with violence and out of control,” Napolitano said in prepared remarks. “This statement – often made only to score political points – is just plain wrong.”

Documentarians and border security experts Stan Wald and Jerry Misner, who covered border issues in their documentary “Southern Exposure,” told TheDC that what Napolitano said is not even close to the real story of what’s going on along the border.

“From our standpoint, it’s not getting better [along the border], it’s getting worse,” Misner told TheDC.  “We make that assessment solely on the number of crimes, particularly drug trafficking, and criminals who illegal aliens are bringing north with them.”

Wald said that top-level administration officials and spokespeople have spun the storyline that the border is secure so that the administration can move forward with its “comprehensive immigration reform” plans, or what some consider amnesty for all illegal immigrants.

“If you talk to the boots on the ground, those who are out in the field, not management level and not supervisors, you get the real story, you get the truth,” Wald said. “If border towns were safe, Border Patrol agent Brian Terry wouldn’t be dead.”

Bandits who prey on illegal immigrants moving through southern Arizona shot and killed Terry while he was on duty in December 2010.

Royce also told TheDC that Border Patrol agents informed him of several “lookout points” drug cartels and smugglers have on the U.S. side of the border in Arizona, from which they communicate with their counterparts in Mexico to protect shipments of drugs, people and weapons, or whatever they’re smuggling, from Border Patrol and other U.S. law enforcement personnel.