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Cantwell, Local Law Enforcement Call on Congress to Help Border Communities Meet Security Needs

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Location: Bellingham, WA


Cantwell, Local Law Enforcement Call on Congress to Help Border Communities Meet Security Needs

Cantwell proposal would reimburse bogged-down communities for millions in border security costs

Friday, July 07,2006

BELLINGHAM, WA - Friday at the Whatcom County Courthouse, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined Whatcom County Undersheriff Carey James, Prosecuting Attorney Dave McEachran, Executive Pete Kremen, and Public Defender John Komorowski to call on Congress to pass Cantwell's Northern Border Prosecution Initiative, which would create a reimbursement program for northern border communities prosecuting federal border crimes. Bipartisan legislation introduced by Cantwell and included in the Senate's immigration bill would reimburse northern border communities for the cost of prosecuting and detaining individuals suspected of border crimes. At Friday's event, Cantwell sent a letter to the Judiciary Committees calling for the inclusion of her proposal in the final version of any immigration or border security legislation passed by Congress.

"Local governments are bearing far too much of our border security burden," said Cantwell, a member of the Northern Border Coalition. "We're already helping our southern border communities with security costs. There's no reason why our northern border communities should keep getting stuck with an unfair share of the bill. Law enforcement officers all along our 4,000-mile northern border work non-stop with already sparse budgets to keep our entire country safe and secure. We need to help them cover these costs."

Representative Rick Larsen, who introduced the same bill in the U.S. House of Representatives said, "Our local law enforcement, prosecutors and public defenders are currently saddled with eighty-five percent of arrests initiated by federal law enforcement along the northern border. Southwest border states have had the exclusive benefit of a reimbursement program for too long. It is time to extend that same assistance to local jurisdictions along the northern border."

The high cost of prosecuting federal border crimes is weighing down small communities along our northern border. In 2004, Whatcom County was forced to prosecute more than 85 percent of the criminal apprehensions made by federal law enforcement officers at or near the border, costing the county more than $2.5 million. Whatcom County estimates that it prosecutes 85 to 90 percent of all drug cases initiated by federal law enforcement agencies.

Cantwell's proposal, the Northern Border Prosecution Initiative Reimbursement Act, was included in the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act passed by the Senate in May. In a letter sent Friday to leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary committees, Cantwell was joined by Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID), Representative Rick Larsen (D-WA), and Representative Cathy McMorris (R-WA) to request that the northern border measures be included in the final version of any immigration or border security legislation passed by Congress and encouraged Congress to hold hearings on the proposal in northern border states.

"Communities along the Northern Border are forced to cover the extreme costs of handling cases deferred by federal agencies along the U.S. border with Canada," the letter stated. "These cases place an enormous burden on all aspects of the criminal justice system, especially after September 11th. …Local police departments and county prosecutors provide the first line of defense to protect our citizens from criminal activity in border counties."

Modeled on an existing program for the southern border, Cantwell's legislation would authorize almost $30 million annually to reimburse border communities for the cost of prosecuting cases, detaining suspects, and constructing holding spaces. Specifically, reimbursements would cover investigations and arrests initiated by federal law enforcement officers, as well as any case involving a violation of federal law referred to state or local authorities for prosecution.

Cosponsors of Cantwell's proposal include Senators Larry Craig (R-ID), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Patty Murray (D-WA), Max Baucus (D-MT), and seven others.

[The text of the letter to House and Senate Judiciary Committee leaders follows below]

July 7, 2006

Dear Chairmen Specter and Sensenbrenner and Ranking Members Leahy and Conyers:

As you prepare for possible conference negotiations on immigration reform and/or border security legislation, we write in support of Senate-passed language authorizing a program to reimburse Northern Border states for costs spent prosecuting and disposing of federally initiated and deferred cases. Modeled on the Southwest Border Prosecution Initiative, Subtitle F Sec. 756 of S. 2611, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006, authorizes $28 million to create a Northern Border Prosecution Initiative.

We respectfully request your assistance in ensuring this important provision is included in any final immigration or border security conference report. Furthermore, as the House and Senate look to hold hearings across the country on the House and Senate-passed immigration bills, we encourage you to hold hearings in Northern Border states and to address the issue of local reimbursement for costs spent on federal cases.

This much-needed legislation will return to states and communities along the U.S./Canada border the resources they spend prosecuting and detaining people apprehended for federal border-related crimes. The language included in the Senate bill corrects an injustice - for too long Southwest Border states have had the exclusive benefit of a reimbursement program. It is time to extend that same assistance to states and local jurisdictions along the Northern Border.

Communities along the Northern Border are forced to cover the extreme costs of handling cases deferred by federal agencies along the U.S. border with Canada. These cases place an enormous burden on all aspects of the criminal justice system, especially after September 11th. Once these cases are declined and referred by the U.S. Attorney's Office, the impact on local police forces, court systems, prosecutors, and public defenders is significant.

Local police departments and county prosecutors provide the first line of defense to protect our citizens from criminal activity in border counties. As a partner with U.S. Customs, U.S. Border Patrol and the Drug Enforcement Administration, they play an invaluable role in keeping our country secure.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. If we can provide any further information please do not hesitate to contact us.

Sincerely,

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell U.S. Senator Mike Crapo U.S. Representative Rick Larsen U.S. Representative Cathy McMorris

http://cantwell.senate.gov/news/record.cfm?id=258373&&days=30&

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