Vowed to work with President-elect Donald Trump to implement the biggest domestic counterterrorism overhaul in a decade, which will include a “revamp” of the entire immigrant visa security system.
He said Congress would build the border wall, which Trump proposed during the campaign, and that the federal government would take a “military-style approach” to securing the U.S.-Mexico border. McCaul also said Congress is already working on an “emergency plan” to build “the tough array of barriers” needed along the border to close all gaps.
“Anyone applying for a visa to our country should undergo a much more intensive, upfront background check over there before they can come here. That is why I plan to revamp U.S. visa security laws and provide expanded authorities to our frontline investigators. We also need to bring security screening into the digital age by using social-media intelligence and new technology,” McCaul said during his “State of Homeland Security Address” at the Heritage Foundation in Washington.
“In general, our goal should be to identify and exclude individuals who have ties to terror, who advance Islamist extremism or who support the overthrow of our government and Constitution,” he added.
McCaul, who advised Trump on national security matters during the presidential campaign, suggested that Congress work with the president-elect to “immediately suspend immigration from high-risk countries where we cannot confidently weed out terror suspects,” which he specifically said would include Syria.
“Let me be clear: we are a compassionate nation, and we have a very proud tradition of welcoming refugees but we cannot let terrorists take advantage of our humanitarian efforts. We know for certain that groups like ISIS have already used refugee flows as a Trojan horse to attack our allies in France and Germany,” he said. “Top national security officials have told me —both privately and publicly — that they are not confident in our ability to prevent terror operatives from infiltrating the Syrian refugee program. So, until we get the right protections in place, it should be suspended.”
McCaul described the current “threat environment” as the “highest” he has seen during his tenure as chairman.
“For eight years Obama administration played global wackamole with Jihadists rather than leaning into the fight with decisive leadership. They said terrorists were on the run when they were really on the rise. They lacked moral authority about the overall conflict let alone a clear plan for victory,” he said. “I believe our president-elect is much more clear-eyed about the danger. I was part of his national security team. I participated in his debate preparation and I know the team surrounding him.”
McCaul said Trump knows the U.S. has to define the enemy as the country did with fascism and communism.
“In this ideological struggle against Islamist terrorism, Donald Trump is committed to winning. He understands that these fanatics have perverted a major religion into a weapon, and they are using it to target our way of life. While there were sharp disagreements in our presidential campaign, now is the time to come together as a nation to give the commander-in-chief an opportunity to turn the tide in the war,” he said.
Trump made the construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border a central part of his immigration plan during the campaign. The 2,000-mile southern border currently has double-layer fencing in some sections while other parts consist of vehicle barriers and pedestrian fencing. Other areas of the border have no fencing present. McCaul said the wall is going to be built.
“Talking heads here in Washington have spent years promising border security, while giving us the opposite. In fact, the open-border dreams of politicians have created real-life nightmares for everyday Americans. All you have to do is look at the headlines: The crime. The drugs. The human trafficking and fear. I come from a border state; I see it on a daily basis. This is all about to change,” he said.
“Starting next month, people are going to get what they asked for. We are going to build the wall. Period. In the process, I will stand by the Trump Administration to throw out President Obama’s reckless immigration policies and start enforcing our nation’s laws,” he added.
McCaul described a new approach to combatting illegal immigration and drug trafficking.
“We must start with an immediate border security surge, which I call on the Trump administration to announce day one. In the meantime, we’ve started to work on emergency plan in Congress to build the tough array of barriers we need along the border, to close all gaps, and defend American sovereignty. This legislation will be unveiled in the New Year, and I will personally push to get it to the president’s desk quickly,” he said. “We will put in place a historic, multi-layered defense system so that drug cartels and terrorists don’t slip through the cracks.
McCaul said the plan would include more Border Patrol agents, new authorities, aerial surveillance, sensors, and other technology to protect our territory.
“We will take a military-style approach to the problem by giving agencies the real command and control they need to get a handle on the situation,” he said.
To fund these efforts, McCaul said Mexico and other nations would need to have some “skin in the game” to prevent illegal crossings into the U.S.
“There are many reasonable ways to do this. For starters, we can put in place new immigration fees from Mexico, institute a security toll at border crossings, seize and freeze drug cartel assets, which we do but we don’t redirect it to the border. We need to take those cartel assets and put it down at the border,” he said.
“Other countries in Latin America have contributed to the crisis and failed to rein in the chaos. So they should help pay for these fixes, too. In turn, we will offer to work with them to help their governments figure out how to secure their borders and keep threats from spilling over into neighboring countries like our own.”
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