Representative Ann Kirkpatrick, Arizona's only Member on the House Committee on Homeland Security, this evening released a statement in response to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office indicating that they may return to session to pass a critical border security package before the end of the week. Rep Kirkpatrick had earlier in the day called on the Senate to follow the lead of the House in coming back into session to move the bill forward as quickly as possible. The Congresswoman has been working for weeks to push through measures to expand the U.S. Border Patrol and put more resources into action along the border and she successfully advocated to have it pass during the special session this morning.
Rep. Kirkpatrick issued the following statement:
"Throughout this legislative back-and-forth, I have fought hard to make the voices of Arizonans heard in Washington -- to make sure that Congress knows that we are fed up with the federal government's failures along the border. The news that the Senate leadership is responding to our call for action and preparing to pass the border security package this week is a sign that an end to these games is near and resources will soon be en route. At least this time, they are listening to us.
"The House has done their part, passing measures I have fought for to help secure the border three times. Now the Senate needs to follow through and not let partisan bickering get in the way of legislation that both parties and both Houses agree on. This package has been stalled too many times already.
"This is the time for decisive action to protect our communities. Senators passed this bill unanimously last week -- they should do so again without delay."
On Thursday, the Senate passed a bill including critical steps Rep. Kirkpatrick has been working for to help secure the border -- after a legislative battle sparked by their stripping security funding from the Supplemental Appropriations Act. The Congresswoman called on the House last week to commit to not ending the special session without passing the legislation, and Members responded to her push by making it one of two bills on the agenda and passing it through this morning. The House has now passed a version of the border security funding package three different times in less than two months.
Due to procedural mistakes in the Senate bill, it needed to be re-introduced to be considered by the House, and cannot be sent for the President's approval until the Senate votes for it again. Rep. Kirkpatrick called on them to return to work and get the job done shortly after the House vote.
Among other measures, the bill Rep. Kirkpatrick helped move through the House this morning will allow for 1,000 new U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) agents, 250 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) personnel and 250 new Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers; help strengthen operations for CBP, ICE, the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; support efforts to detain criminal illegal immigrants in the federal prison system; send much-needed communication equipment to border security personnel; make it possible to deploy unmanned aerial systems ("drones"); set up forward operating bases for the Border Patrol; make critical improvements to help U.S. attorneys and the courts handle border-related crime; and bolster anti-corruption efforts. It is fully paid for. These should be important additions to our border security efforts, though they do not go as far as H.R. 5875, a $701 million package the Congresswoman championed.
In recent weeks, Rep. Kirkpatrick has stepped up her fight to secure funding to expand the USBP and deploy additional security personnel and resources to the border. After the Senate cut the support for security from the Supplemental Appropriations Act and the House failed to restore it despite her advocacy, the Congresswoman helped push H.R. 5875 through the House on July 28. She then sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) specifically demanding they not adjourn for the August district working period before passing this bill -- which the Senate could not manage to do.
The original measure was written into the Supplemental Appropriations Act after months of pressure from the Congresswoman and many other Arizonans who have been calling for the Border Patrol to be expanded. In May, Rep. Kirkpatrick introduced the Southern Border Security Act requiring 3,500 new USBP agents to be hired, trained and deployed at the U.S.-Mexican border by the end of next year.