A lot of Republicans, and some Democrats, were stunned last month when the Department of Homeland Security admitted that its promised measure of border security, the Border Condition Index, or BCI, is not only not ready to go into operation but will not measure border security when it is finally finished.  The Obama administration had told Congress that the BCI would replace various measurements of “operational control” of the border, which had been used in the past to assess border security.  Now, the government is left with no accepted measure of security along the 1,969-mile U.S. border with Mexico.

The Department’s admission dealt a blow to immigration reform efforts, which depend on provable border security improvements before any path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million immigrants in the United States illegally.  If the Obama administration has no way to measure border security, and reform is contingent on measurable security results, then how can reform go forward?

Now, Republican Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, is planning to introduce legislation to force the administration to come up with a comprehensive plan to find out what is actually happening along the border.  The measure, and a similar bill to be introduced in the Senate, would compel the administration to come up with the kind of measurement that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has rejected.

It is unclear what relation the bill will have to comprehensive immigration reform measures being developed by the Gang of Eight in the Senate and another group in the House.  But it will become another part of what promises to be an intense debate over security that will begin as soon as actual reform bills are made public.