Helps Pass $3 Billion Measure, While Meeting with DHS Officials to Insist on Local Consultation
WASHINGTON-Building on his commitment to increase border security and interior enforcement measures, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, Ranking Member of the Immigration, Border Security and Refugees subcommittee, today helped pass an amendment to the FY 2008 Defense Appropriations Bill that will provide $3 billion aimed directly at protecting the border and enforcing existing immigration laws.
Sen. Cornyn cosponsored a similar amendment to the Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill in July, but with the President expected to veto that measure for unrelated reasons, Sen. Cornyn said today that it was imperative for this funding to be allocated as soon as possible.
"It's critical for the federal government to regain the confidence of the American people that it is serious about securing the border and enforcing our laws. This funding will allow for more boots on the ground, more effective technology such as cameras and motion sensors, and stronger interior enforcement, including at the workplace. It is a needed and long overdue measure to secure our borders, regain public confidence and help our state and local officials who have been struggling to address this ever-growing problem," Sen. Cornyn said.
On a related matter, Sen. Cornyn held a conference call this afternoon with top officials at U.S. Customs and Border Patrol to discuss ongoing proposals to erect fencing and barriers along the Texas border with Mexico. Among those who participated were the USCBP Sector Chiefs from El Paso, Marfa, Del Rio, Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley.
During this meeting, Sen. Cornyn made clear that the Department of Homeland Security must consult with local officials along the border regarding fencing locations. Sen. Cornyn has co-sponsored an amendment, introduced by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and expected to be added to the defense appropriations bill, which would make this consultation mandatory.
"I remain committed to ensuring that the Homeland Security Department consults with state and local officials on border security efforts. We must maintain a balance between security and legitimate trade and travel, which is so important to the economy in Texas border communities," Sen. Cornyn said. "In meeting with Secretary Chertoff several times over the last few months, including with our border sheriffs last week, he has made clear that he shares this commitment. I intend to hold him to that commitment and that was my message to the Department of Homeland Security again today."
Sen. Cornyn also discussed the challenges posed by the overgrowth of the invasive plant, Carrizo cane, along the border, as an obstacle for our border agents and local law enforcement. With tall and dense reeds, Carrizo cane provides cover and shelter to illegal border crossers, and even cars and trucks that smuggle drugs into our country. Sen. Cornyn passed an amendment, which was included in the final homeland security bill, to maximize efforts to control the invasive Carrizo cane plant on the border and support the efforts of the Border Patrol. The effort was initiated following input local officials provided to Sen. Cornyn and federal officials. It has become an important part of considerations about securing the border.