Representative Ann Kirkpatrick, Arizona's only Member on the House Committee on Homeland Security, today released a statement calling on the Senate to come back into session to finally send a critical border security package to the President's desk. Representatives this morning moved towards ending the back-and-forth by approving a $600 million emergency funding bill for the border that includes key measures Rep. Kirkpatrick has been fighting for. This comes after she advocated for the House to remain in special session until they passed this legislation.
Rep. Kirkpatrick's statement was as follows:
"I and many Arizonans have been pushing Washington to move forward with a border security package as quickly as possible, and today we moved one step closer. Now it is up to the Senate to live up to their responsibilities to border communities.
"Representatives came back into session to consider important, time-sensitive legislation this week. Senators need to follow our lead, return to Washington and take fast action to help secure the border. This process has been much slower than it should have been, and we should not have to wait until September to strengthen our security -- we must start putting more manpower and resources in action now. The House did not allow scheduling issues to stand in the way of keeping Arizonans safe, and the Senate cannot either.
"The federal government has a long history of failing Arizona along the border, and it is time for them to stop letting us down and start getting the job done. While we will require far more than is included in this bill, it is a valuable first step towards providing the protection we need -- and both Houses and both parties have agreed on that. There is no reason to let another month go by with it stuck in the Washington gridlock."
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. Rep. Kirkpatrick 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 giving it bipartisan support. 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.
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.