BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. REYES. Madam Speaker, I rise today to ask my colleagues for their support of H.R. 4119, the Border Tunnel Prevention Act of 2012.
I also would like to express my appreciation and thank my cosponsors, Congressman Quayle, who I understand is on his way here and we anticipate that he will be speaking on this, Congressman Chairman Dreier, and Congressman Thompson. I would, in particular, like to thank my good friend and colleague from Texas, Chairman Smith, for his support in bringing this legislation to the floor. I also would like to thank Senator Feinstein and Senator Kyl for their work on a bipartisan, bicameral piece of legislation on the Senate side, which is S. 1236, the companion to the Border Tunnel Prevention Act of 2012.
The Border Tunnel Prevention Act of 2012 strengthens the 2006 Border Tunnel Prevention Act, which made it a crime to construct or finance an unauthorized tunnel or subterranean passage across an international border.
This bill seeks to provide law enforcement officials with enhanced investigative tools and additional options for prosecuting crimes related to the construction and financing of cross-border tunnels.
The Border Tunnel Prevention Act of 2012 would criminalize the attempt or conspiracy to use, construct, or finance a cross-border tunnel and also permits the forfeiture of bulk cash and merchandise smuggled into the United States through these illicit passageways.
Thanks to the collaborative efforts of the Obama administration, Congress, Federal, State, local, and tribal law enforcement organizations, as well as ordinary Americans, the Southwest border is more secure than at any point in our Nation's history. Over the past several years, the Federal Government has dedicated unprecedented levels of personnel, technology, and resources towards border security. As a result, apprehensions today are down, and seizures of drugs, guns, and cash are up. Border cities are among the safest in the country, including El Paso, which for the second year is the safest city in America with a population of over half a million people.
While the strengthening of security along the Southwest border has produced impressive results, it has also led those who want to harm our country to seek new ways to undermine our efforts. Enhancing the security of our borders on land, air, and sea has literally pushed drug cartels and transnational criminal organizations underground as they try to smuggle illicit drugs and people and other types of contraband, as my good friend and colleague from Puerto Rico mentioned, to include the potential for terrorists and weapons of mass destruction being smuggled into the United States.
Over the last decade, drug cartels and transnational criminal organizations have been increasing both the use and complexity of cross-border tunnels. As was said earlier, approximately 154 tunnels have been discovered between Mexico and the United States since the 1990s, and more than 90 percent of those tunnels have been detected in this past decade. These cross-border tunnels are becoming more and more complex.
I've got a picture to show, and I know that the chairman was mentioning the complexity of the construction. One such tunnel is the one that was discovered in November of 2011. It was over 600 yards long, and you can see, it's got a rail system built in. It's got sophisticated lighting, and even a system to introduce fresh air into the tunnel.
No longer are these crude, handmade tunnels. These are sophisticated, well-engineered, and well-financed projects. So that is why it is imperative that this legislation be passed. We must give law enforcement officials the tools that they need to combat this growing threat to our national security and stop the flow of illicit drugs and other contraband into the United States.
Accordingly, I am proud to be the author of this, along with Congressman Quayle, and I urge all my colleagues in Congress to pass this vital piece of bipartisan legislation so that we can move forward with helping to defeat the drug cartels and the transnational criminal organizations and, further, continue the path towards really securing our borders and protecting our communities.
So with that, let me end by thanking, again, Chairman Smith and my good friend and colleague from Puerto Rico and urging my colleagues to support this critical and vital piece of legislation.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT