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Public Statements

Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. TESTER. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that I be recognized to speak for up to 5 minutes in order to call up my amendment, that Senator Vitter then be recognized for up to 8 minutes in order to call up his amendment, and then Senator Hirono be recognized to speak for up to 20 minutes.

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Mr. TESTER. Madam President, I call up amendment No. 1198.

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Mr. TESTER. Madam President, I am proud to be joined by Senators Murkowski, Crapo, and Murray in offering this bipartisan amendment. Border security is one of the most important aspects of this bill, and on both sides of the border, especially the northern border, the only way to secure the border is to involve State, local, and tribal law enforcement in that effort. Native-American lands and people are a vital but, unfortunately, an often overlooked part of our border security plan. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Right now, drug smuggling and trafficking in persons is happening on Indian reservations on our border, moving virtually unnoticed into America. The problem, as the GAO told me in a recent report on this very topic, is a lack of communication and coordination between tribal and U.S. border officials.

This amendment adds four tribal voices to the Department of Homeland Security Task Force, two from the northern border region and two from the southern border region. As drafted, this task force included border security experts from various government entities and is responsible for solving problems related to border security. But somehow the tribal perspective was left out. Yet in Montana, the Blackfeet Reservation is bigger than the entire State of Delaware and it directly borders Canada for 50 miles. The Fort Peck Reservation sits less than 30 miles from the Canadian border. This amendment will increase communication and improve coordination between the Federal and tribal governments that it relies on to secure these borders. Adding a tribal representative to that task force is the right thing to do and it is just plain common sense.

I urge my colleagues to support it, and I yield the floor.

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