Accusing the Federal Government of “neglecting its responsibility for the past 20 years,” in failing to secure the nation’s borders, Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas, pledged to work closely with the new Democrat majority to solve what he calls the country’s “most important domestic issue.

“The Federal Government has to step up and assume responsibility, reclaim credibility and deal with our international borders,” he said. “Currently, most of the burden of illegal immigration falls on state and local taxpayers, but local jurisdictions are not able to deal with it. The Federal Government must crack down.”

Cornyn, keynote speaker at the recent Texas Commodity Symposium in Amarillo, said no one believes a “700 mile long fence” is the complete answer to border security. “We need some physical barriers but we also need to double the size of our border patrol. Currently, we have 12,000 patrolling a 2, 000 mile border. They do outstanding jobs but are outnumbered.”

Cornyn suggests the Federal government employ technology used by the military in Iraq and Afghanistan to help reduce illegal immigration. He cited ground sensors, thermal imagery and unmanned aerial reconnaissance as possibilities.

Cornyn supports a guest worker program and border traffic for legitimate business. “But post 9/11, we have to know who comes in,” he said. “The vast majority comes across for legitimate reasons. But we had 1.1 million that came across the (Mexican) border last year and a large percentage was not Mexican. Mexico has become a land bridge into the United States because of its open southern border. This is a national security concern.”

Cornyn said that in addition to illegals who cross just to work a large number of criminals, including gang members and drug dealers also come in.

He recommends developing a system that includes a “reliable means of employee eligibility. The current system is designed for failure. Documents are easily forged.”

He said an identification card that’s both easy to use and hard to forge is necessary. “We have the technology,” he said. “We use it now in convenience store (scanners) and with debit cards. And we need a system that will not put the burden on employers. But we need to give them the tools to check IDs.”

He said a guest worker program should not “necessarily be a path to citizenship, but something similar to the Braseros program of the 1950s. After a period of about two years, workers would return home and then could come back if they comply with regulations. We don’t want them to sever ties to their country and families.”

Cornyn said achieving adequate border security will “take cooperation. But the risks are too high to allow the current status to continue. It’s the Federal Government’s responsibility to step up and take the burden off local governments. I’m hopeful we can work with the Democrat majority and get this done.”

e-mail: rsmith@farmpress.com