Rep. Ralph Hall (TX-4) joined a majority of House Members last evening in approving the homeland security appropriations bill for fiscal year 2010 that garnered large bipartisan support. The vote was 389-37.
"This is one of the few measures so far this year on which both parties could reach some agreement," Hall said.
"I'm pleased that we maintained strong support of our Border Patrol Agents who are helping to keep our borders secure," Hall noted. "We also established Congressional intent that some of the funds be used to remove lookout posts used by drug smugglers and Mexican drug cartels along the U.S.-Mexico border."
Since 2000, the Bush Administration and Congress has doubled the number of Border Patrol Agents, and since 2006 Congress has appropriated $3.5 billion for border security fencing, infrastructure and technology activities, resulting in 624 miles in pedestrian and vehicle fencing. These measures have resulted in a record number of drug seizures and a decline in the number of illegal immigrants entering the U.S.
"This bill also prevents funds from being used to employ any undocumented illegal workers and extends the E-Verify program, which employers use to check the immigration status of employees," Hall said.
The bill requires the Department of Homeland Security to place Guantanamo prisoners on "no fly" lists and denies them immigration benefits. The Department also is directed to conduct threat assessments for the prisoners.
"I am also pleased that the bill appropriates funds for the Science and Technology Directorate, which is responsible for promoting the development and deployment of cutting-edge technologies to improve homeland security," Hall said. Hall is the Ranking Member of the Committee on Science and Technology, which provides oversight for this division of Homeland Security.
The Committee's oversight includes programs for chemical and biological research, next generation technologies to improve cyber security and interoperability, port security research, explosives countermeasures, the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, and university research programs and lab facilities.
"Technology plays a large part in ensuring our homeland security," Hall said. "Research and development in new and improved ways to detect and prevent threats and to provide rapid response are critical in our efforts to protect our citizens."