Sen. Salazar Pushes for a Secure Border
Senator Supports Legislation to Criminalize Underground Tunnels
As the Senate begins debate on the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations bill, United States Senator Ken Salazar moved today to secure the border by supporting an amendment to criminalize the construction of unauthorized tunnels under U.S. borders.
"Our Nation's borders are broken and lawless. Even before September 11, Border Patrol agents discovered two underground tunnels used to transport illegal drugs across the border. Now, with the very real threats of terrorism and human trafficking looming large, reports of underground tunnels are troubling for law enforcement and humanitarian workers alike. Without a secure border, our National Security remains at risk," said Senator Salazar, a former Colorado Attorney General.
The "Border Tunnel Prevention Act," which Senator Salazar cosponsored as an amendment today, punishes the construction of unauthorized tunnels with a maximum of 20 years imprisonment. In addition, the legislation punishes those who permit others to construct tunnels with a maximum of 10 years imprisonment.
Also today, in a press conference alongside Democratic colleagues, Senator Salazar emphasized that border security is an integral facet of any comprehensive approach to addressing illegal immigration and America's National Security. Senator Salazar noted that Democrats have offered a wide array of amendments that would have provided $3.4 billion in border security funds since 2001 and that the Senate-passed comprehensive immigration reform act adds thousands of new personnel to help secure our porous borders.
"Congress is ready to address this National Security issue," Senator Salazar said today. "Hopefully, this week we can begin to address this issue in a reasonable and appropriate manner. Hopefully we can begin to bring law and order to our porous borders. Hopefully we can convince our colleagues on the other side of the aisle that the National Security of the Nation is too important to play politics with."
Senator Salazar's complete remarks as prepared follow:
"Our Nation is embroiled in a debate of epic proportions - border security and the reality of illegal immigration. The reality is that our borders are broken and lawless. In the past two decades the number of undocumented immigrants living here has tripled to nearly 12 million.
"The fact that the federal government has permitted millions to cross our borders illegally, with no idea who is entering and for what purpose, is unacceptable. Enforcement of our immigration laws has not kept pace with the flow of both legal and illegal immigration, and laws that deal with those who crossed the border are rarely enforced.
"There has been a lot of tough talk of late about fixing our broken borders; unfortunately talking about the problem for political gain won't fix anything.
"Since 2001, the number of illegal border crossers apprehended annually has dropped 30 percent. The 9/11 Act authorized new facilities to hold an additional 8,000 individuals detained for illegally crossing our border each year for the next five years. In contrast, in FY06, Congress funded only 1,800 additional detention beds. Today, our border control agents can only handle 10 percent of illegal border crossers under current staffing conditions.
"The 9/11 Act also mandated an additional 800 immigration enforcement agents for each of the next five years. For Fiscal Year 2006, Congress funded only 350 additional agents. And again, in next year's budget, the Administration funds 85 fewer agents than authorized.
"The GAO released a report in March that detailed how two federal investigators were able to smuggle enough nuclear material to make two dirty bombs across our northern and southern borders. The report stated that GAO investigators transported radioactive sources across both borders with ease.'
"While House Republican leadership mulls over politically-motivated hearings in swing districts, the rest of us are seeking a solution.
"Since 9/11, Democrats have proposed amendments and legislative initiatives that would have provided an additional $3.4 billion in border security funds.
"The comprehensive immigration reform backed by a bipartisan majority of Senators includes hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of new positions aimed at fixing our lawless borders. For example, that bill would add 12,000 new Border Patrol agents, 10,000 new ICE worksite inspectors, 2,500 new port-of-entry inspectors, 1,000 new document fraud inspectors, and hundreds of other positions.
"Between proposals offered by Democrats in both chambers and comprehensive immigration reform which provides for border security and immigration law enforcement, Congress is ready to address this National Security issue.
"Hopefully, this week we can begin to address this issue in a reasonable and appropriate manner. Hopefully we can begin to bring law and order to our porous borders. Hopefully we can convince our colleagues on the other side of the aisle that the National Security of the Nation is too important to play politics with."