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Weekly Column 8-23-2010


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As you may know, $600 million in additional border security funding was recently signed into law. The funding passed without opposition in both the House and the Senate and was quickly signed into law by the President, signaling a strong bipartisan consensus that we must do more to crack down on illegal immigration.

An additional 1,500 border patrol officers and agents will be hired along the Southern border as a result of the passage of this legislation. The remaining portion of the $600 million will go towards improved communications networks, unmanned aircraft systems to patrol the border, additional Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and to federal courts to hear increased immigration cases.

$600 million may be just a start, but it is certainly a step in the right direction. On my recent trip to the border, Customs and Border Patrol agents told me new staff is essential for providing better security on the border. I'm glad we quickly acted to provide them with additional resources along the border.

However, there are other sensible solutions we can and should pass to provide relief along the border. I recently became a co-sponsor of the Stop the Drop Houses Act, or H.R. 5769. This legislation seeks to close a loophole in federal law so authorities can use civil forfeiture to seize homes used as "drop houses" in illegal smuggling activities. Under current law, civil forfeiture can be used to seize vehicles used for smuggling, but not houses.

There are many aspects to fighting illegal immigration, and giving federal agents new investigative capabilities is an essential aspect of the fight. Human smuggling is one of the root causes of violence in border areas and allowing authorities to seize property will help them combat some of the crimes associated with illegal immigration. I believe if we continue to take reasonable steps such as the Stop the Drop Houses Act, I know we can make real progress towards fully securing the border.

Broadband grant awarded in the Second District

Last week, the Department of Commerce announced that Troy Cablevision is set to receive a $26 million grant to expand broadband service in Pike, Crenshaw, Coffee, and Dale counties. For over a year, I have worked with Troy Cablevision on its grant application and promoted this project throughout the Second District and in Washington. Needless to say, they are a very deserving grant recipient among the hundreds of applicants from across the country. This project will help create jobs across much of Southeast Alabama.

The Southeast Alabama SmartBand project will deploy a fiber-optic network to provide critical new broadband service in the four-county area. First responders, municipal governments, hospitals, and schools in this area typically lack Internet access at the speeds necessary to provide key services like Next Generation 911, distance learning, and telemedicine.

Additionally, Troy Cablevision has also formed a public-private partnership with the South Alabama Electric Cooperative to enable advanced "smartgrid" energy management services for 17,000 electricity consumers in Crenshaw, Pike, and Coffee Counties, significantly improving energy efficiency in the region. The network plans to support economic growth by providing broadband capabilities required to attract major businesses to the region.

The project plans to directly connect as many as 140 community institutions to broadband. As many as 127,200 people stand to benefit as do 3,600 businesses. In addition to the more than approximately 145 jobs Troy Cablevision estimates the project will create, it will provide a foundation for economic growth and job creation for decades to come.

Broadband technology is the modern day version of rural electrification because it has the potential to bring economic development to rural America. Consumers, businesses, schools, public safety entities will have access to an advanced broadband network, connecting them to the entire world at high speeds. It's an exciting and visionary project, and I was proud to work with them on this grant and look forward to helping all of our communities access broadband technology.

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