Representative Ann Kirkpatrick, Arizona's only Member on the House Committee on Homeland Security, today sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) calling on them not to adjourn for August before passing H.R. 5875 to expand the U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) and deploy additional security personnel and resources to the border.
Rep. Kirkpatrick helped push this critical border security package through the House on Wednesday night, on the heels of the Senate stripping support for strengthening security from the Supplemental Appropriations Act and the House failing to restore it despite the Congresswoman's advocacy.
She has been demanding that Congress start meeting its obligations along the border, and she wants this measure she co-sponsored to move forward now to make Arizonans safer as fast as possible. Rep. Kirkpatrick is urging the Senate not to let down her constituents by leaving town before fulfilling their duties.
"It would be irresponsible for the Senate to go home and force Arizonans to wait six more weeks for these security improvements to start," said Rep. Kirkpatrick. "We are tired of waiting for Washington to get its act together -- we have been living with the consequences of the federal government's mistakes too long.
"This time at least, the House has done its job and acted quickly to help secure the border. Now the Senate must do theirs by passing the bill and protecting our communities -- they need to keep working until this is finished.
H.R. 5875 allows for 1,200 new USBP agents and additional Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers, establishes new forward operating bases for the Border Patrol, strengthens assistance for local law enforcement through Operation Stonegarden, makes it possible to purchase two new unmanned aerial systems ("drones") and bolsters Justice Department programs aimed at combating Mexican drug cartel activities.
Rep. Kirkpatrick noted that the day after she helped pass this bill on the House floor, Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) introduced legislation to take the same steps to improve security -- demonstrating a clear consensus on the importance of improving public safety in the Southwest.
"Washington needs to stop putting politics above security. Members of both houses on both sides of the aisle agree that these steps are absolutely critical to protect folks in the border region, and yet partisan attacks from Democrats and Republicans alike keep getting in the way. We deserve better from Congress," said Rep. Kirkpatrick.
"This legislative package is only a first step in the right direction. We will need much more manpower and many more resources to secure the border and keep Arizonans safe, and it is not clear to us that the federal government is willing to do what it takes. Washington's record of failure on this issue is long enough -- it is time for them to prove to us that they get what's at stake."
The original measure was written 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 Border Patrol agents to be hired, trained and deployed at the U.S.-Mexican border by the end of next year. In June, the Department of Homeland Security requested that the House add funding to the supplemental bill to tighten security along the borders, and the House responded by including significant funding as part of the original Supplemental Appropriations Act.