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Mr. ALTMIRE. Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank my friend, Congressman Poe, for his strong leadership on this issue and for again working with me this year to highlight the critical importance of expanded mobile communications along our southern border.
Last year I had the opportunity to visit the district of our former colleague, Gabrielle Giffords, in southwestern Arizona, where I met with customs and Border Patrol agents, examined construction of the border fence and spoke with ranchers and residents who live and work in the remote areas along the U.S.-Mexico border. In rural areas along that border, cell phone service is virtually nonexistent, and where service does exist, it's often unreliable. Some ranchers even have to resort to communicating through the use of two-way radios.
The lack of cell phone service presents an obvious safety issue for ranchers, as my friend, Congressman Poe outlined, and it's a safety issue for residents and the National Guard troops who patrol that protected area. If a rancher feels threatened, he cannot currently call for help or alert law enforcement to the situation.
To address this issue, our amendment adds $10 million to the general account for border security fencing, infrastructure, and technology to expand mobile communications in remote areas along our southern border. These funds may be used by the Department of Homeland Security to enter into public-private partnerships which will provide a more reliable communications link between law enforcement officials and citizens who live and work in our border areas.
Last year, Congressman Poe and I offered a similar amendment that passed with a strong bipartisan vote of 327 93. Despite its inclusion in last year's omnibus funding measure, little action to date has been taken by DHS to implement stronger cell coverage along the U.S.-Mexico border. I urge support of our amendment to show DHS that the safety of our southern border is a priority for this Congress.
This is a problem we can and must fix. Supporting this amendment will not increase spending, but what it will do is protect the public and increase the effectiveness of law enforcement in rural border areas.
I ask my colleagues to support this amendment, and I yield back the balance of my time.
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