Today, an amendment offered by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo and Montana Senator Jon Tester to the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, or the Immigration reform package, was agreed to on a vote of 94 to 0. This amendment will add four tribal representatives--two from the northern region and two from the southern region--to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Border Oversight Task Force. This amendment was prompted by a recent U.S. Government Accountability Office finding that coordination challenges between tribal governments and law enforcement negatively affected the U.S. government's ability to defend against drug trafficking and to safely secure the border.
"The DHS Task Force will be responsible for making recommendations on how to secure the border across thousands of miles of public, private and tribal lands," Crapo said. "These border communities know the land better than anyone, including its vulnerabilities and threats. Tribes on both the northern and southern borders should be included to improve public safety and better communicate with law enforcement. I commend my colleagues for recognizing the importance of including the tribes and thank them for a strong bipartisan vote."
The task force, with the addition of four tribal representatives, will total 33 members and will include stakeholders from the local government, law enforcement, civil rights groups, businesses, private land owners and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
"The Ktunaxa Nation was split by the boundary and our families live in both the United States and Canada," Kootenai Chairperson Jennifer Porter said. "We're happy to see the recognition of the need to include tribal interests in border security."
The U.S. Senate continues to debate and amend the immigration reform proposal.