Working To Secure Our Nation
Each year trillions of dollars in commercial trade and millions of visitors pass through our borders. However, these same borders are potential entrance points for terrorists, weapons, and drugs. In a post-9/11 world, we must ensure that we provide our nation with the resources to prevent another terrorist attack on our homeland. The House recently passed a funding bill that will provide the tools to improve our ability to better protect and secure our nation. The Department of Homeland Security Appropriations bill includes steps to secure our border and ports, as well as strengthen federal response to natural disasters and terrorist attacks.
As a member of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, I worked to ensure that significant funding was set aside for border security measures. I believe strongly that securing our nation's borders is an urgent homeland security issue, and this bill provides $19.6 billion for border protection, immigration enforcement, and related activities. This includes $3.98 billion for the Department of Homeland Security's Secure Border Initiative. This program has been responsible for ending the flawed practice of "catch and release," and instead instituting a "catch and return" policy.
We also ensured that funding was set aside for additional Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers. I have visited the border three times in the past several months, and it is clear that more resources are needed along the border. The presence of the National Guard on the border will ease the strain on the U.S. Border Patrol, but there are still many more miles of border than there are agents.
Our land borders, however, are not the only points of entry that need to be protected. Our coastline is 12,000 miles, and our nation's ports handle approximately 11 million shipping containers each year. This bill funds important port, container, and cargo security measures that will help improve our nation's safety and stop threats before they reach American soil. Specifically, it requires increased levels of inspection for cargo entering our country.
Our state and local first responders play a key role in responding to and preventing terrorist attacks. This bill also maintains the grant system that has been critical in equipping our nation's dedicated first responders--the emergency medical personnel, firefighters, and police officers who are first on the scene when disasters strike. Since the 9/11 attacks, we have provided billions of dollars to first responders for terrorism prevention and preparedness, general law enforcement, firefighter assistance, airport security, seaport security, and public health preparedness.
In the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, we made sure that support was given for disaster preparedness efforts. The bill requires changes in disaster assistance based upon lessons learned from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Further, funding is provided for FEMA to prepare for and respond to any form of disaster or terrorist attack.
This bill also protects our nation's critical infrastructure, and supports drug control and traditional law enforcement efforts. The programs funded through this bill provide the resources necessary to create smart and secure borders that keep terrorists and illegal immigrants out of America without hindering the flow of commerce or travel. National security is my top priority and I will continue to fight to secure our borders and protect our homeland.