Republicans debut major security bill in response to worsening border crisis

Republicans debut major security bill in response to worsening border crisis
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Top House Republicans debuted legislation that aims to enhance security significantly at the United States-Mexico boundary as the border crisis worsened for a sixth consecutive month under President Joe Biden.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, Republican Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik of New York, and a handful of committee ranking members on Thursday introduced the Border Security for America Act.

The top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, New York Rep. John Katko, said the 67-page bill was put together as a result of conversations that members had with community members, law enforcement, and regional organizations while on trips to the southern border through the spring and summer.

"We’ve been down to the southern border several times to see this crisis firsthand and hear directly from those on the frontlines," Katko said in a statement. "This legislation tackles key shortcomings and weaknesses we’ve seen for ourselves that are fueling the border crisis."

It is Republicans' solution to the situation at the southern border, where, in one example illustrating the scope of the problem, a premier migrant organization in South Texas has become so overwhelmed that it is turning away migrants who have been released from federal custody. Since the start of fiscal year 2021, illegal immigrant encounters are up 362% from the same time last year, and border authorities have seized enough fentanyl to kill 1.9 billion people.

“The Biden Administration's failure to secure our southern border puts every American’s security at risk,” Stefanik, the third-highest Republican in the House, said in a statement.

“Biden’s open border policies have been a complete disaster, causing the worst border crisis we’ve seen in over 20 years," she added. "As the number of encounters continue to rise, drugs and weapons are flooding across our southern border, and Democrats have turned their backs on our border patrol agents and law enforcement."

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The plan is comprehensive and would force the federal government to restart border wall contracts that Biden canceled, fund advanced technology that would aid federal law enforcement at the border, and boost the number of homeland security employees working at the international boundary. The three items are measures that Border Patrol leaders frequently tout as necessary to do their jobs.

Republicans want to hold Democrats' feet to the fire on the border, where nearly half of Border Patrol agents in hard-hit regions have been pulled from the field to care for people in custody.

Border Patrol employs approximately 19,000 agents. The bill calls for an additional 3,500 agents and at least 1,200 employees who work solely at processing centers where migrant families and children are taken after being encountered on the border. The processing center coordinators would allow agents to return to the field rather than take care of people in custody.

The number of law enforcement officers at the ports of entry would be increased to 27,725, and air and marine officers would jump to 1,675 agents. More than 200 new K-9 units would be hired across Customs and Border Protection, which oversees the Border Patrol, ports of entry, and air and marine patrols.

The remaining 300 miles of funded border wall construction projects that Biden halted earlier this year would continue to completion. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas would lose his authority to cancel any wall projects funded through congressional appropriation bills or through money that has been diverted from other federal agencies.

Border authorities would have to fly unmanned aerial systems, or drones, over the border day and night, every day. Every federal agent and officer would be equipped with a radio to ease communication and improve response time. At ports of entry where vehicles are inspected before being allowed into the country, all license plate scanners would have to be updated to the latest technology.

The Homeland Security Act of 2002 would be amended to require that DHS submit an implementation plan for how it will digitally track immigrants entering and leaving the country, which was called for 19 years ago but has not gone into effect nationwide at airports and all other land and sea ports of entry.

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A total of $110 million for grants over the next five years would be made available to local law enforcement agencies who work with federal border authorities as part of what is referred to as Operation Stonegarden. The overgrown brush that surrounds the U.S. side of the border in South Texas, where more illegal immigrants are apprehended than any other part of the southern border, would be eradicated, making it easier for agents to patrol.

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Tags: News, Border Crisis, Border Patrol, Border Security, Customs and Border Protection, House Republicans, Homeland Security, Immigration, National Security

Original Author: Anna Giaritelli

Original Location: Republicans debut major security bill in response to worsening border crisis

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