Daily Local News - Guest column: A bipartisan approach to border security and ending the shutdown

West Chester, PA, January 17, 2019
Originally published in the Daily Local News

By Rep. Chrissy Houlahan

It has been 14 days since I was sworn into Congress on behalf of the citizens of Pennsylvania’s 6th Congressional District. It is the honor and privilege of my lifetime.

Unfortunately, I join dozens of other freshmen from across the nation entering our first days in office into a partial government shutdown. Nearly one quarter of the Congress is new and eager to do what we were elected to do: bring back civility and a willingness to work together to achieve compromise.

As your Representative, I have a variety of duties and responsibilities — both legislating and advocating. First, though, we must reopen our government.

To that end, over the last two weeks, I have voted over a half dozen times to open aspects of our government that provide critical services to millions of Americans. I also voted to restore funding to Homeland Security for a month to give us time to collectively work on a compromise to the impasse.

I am third generation military, and I believe strongly in secure borders — land, air, and sea. I join the vast majority of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in believing that it is essential to our national sovereignty for us to protect our borders.

But we must also allow the government to work as it was designed by our founding fathers and by the Constitution: with the Legislative Branch and the Executive Branch working together to solve challenges responsibly. We cannot shut government down whenever we cannot agree. As Sen. Mitch McConnell has said, shutting down our government is “a failed policy.”

To that end, I would like to see us come to the table to work on a bipartisan bill that would have Homeland Security perform a mile-by-mile assessment of our entire southern border to determine the most practical and effective way to secure each part.

They would then deliver to Congress a strategy for optimizing security for each section of the border. A similar bill was introduced in the last session of Congress and had bipartisan support.

After conducting this assessment, we would be able to assign possible solutions tailored to each part of the border. The solution may be state-of-the-art technologies to detect tunnels where fencing or other barriers already exist.

It might be sensors and radar to spot moving people and objects regardless of weather or time of day. It may be more staff, more facilities, or drones to surveil places where the area is too rugged or isolated to monitor.

And, it might in some cases be a physical barrier, such as a levee or fence. Hundreds of miles of this kind of barrier solution already exist. Many miles are in need of repair. In this proposal, if Homeland Security wanted to recommend something as expensive as a border barrier of any material, they would need to justify its cost over other more cost effective options.

This current shutdown is not the way for us to accomplish our national objectives, and it is not the way for us to treat our federal workers and those who depend on their services.

Roughly one third of our federal employees are veterans, and the shutdown is affecting all kinds of people: children, seniors, law enforcement, farmers, and small business owners, to name a few. Since I took office, I have also spent much of my time listening to how our community is being affected by these weeks of the government shutdown.

As we get our office up and going, I look forward to approaching our challenges together by listening to our community, working with my colleagues across the aisle and across the country, and finding the best solutions possible for all of us. Thank you for the honor of serving you.

U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-6th Dist., represents Chester County, southern Berks County and the City of Reading in Congress.