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Jaime Zapata Border Enforcement Security Task Force Act

Floor Speech

Location: Unknown

Ms. JACKSON LEE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to debate the Senate Amendment to H.R. 915, the ``Jamie Zapata Border Enforcement Security Task Force Act,'' which amends the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to establish within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) the Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST), which shall establish units to enhance border security by addressing and reducing border security threats and violence.

More specifically, this Border Enforcement Security Task Force will achieve its goal of border security enhancement by (1) facilitating collaboration among federal, state, local, tribal, and foreign law enforcement agencies to execute coordinated activities in furtherance of border security and homeland security; and (2) enhancing information-sharing, including the dissemination of homeland security information among such agencies.

As the Representative for the 18th Congressional District of Texas, I am deeply concerned about spill-over violence along the border between my state and Mexico. The recent increase in drug trafficking-related violence in Mexican cities, such as Juárez and Nuevo Laredo, is cause for concern, particularly in the neighboring U.S. cities of El Paso and Laredo, TX.

In fact, in 2010, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a safety alert to law enforcement officers in the El Paso area warning that drug trafficking organizations and associated gangs may target U.S. law enforcement.

The BEST program is currently administered by DHS, and involves information sharing and law-enforcement operations between personnel from federal, state, local, tribal, and foreign law-enforcement agencies to combat criminal activity near the United States borders.

There are currently 34 BEST units.

Since inception in June of 2005, these DHS-led task forces made 10,024 criminal arrests; 6,541 administrative arrests; 5,802 indictments; and 4,999 convictions.

They seized over 88,500 pounds of cocaine; 870,748 pounds of marijuana; 4,669 pounds of methamphetamine; 4,383 pounds of ecstasy; 1,404 pounds of heroin; 3,866 vehicles; 14,243 weapons; 2,920,155 rounds of ammunition; and in excess of $111.8 million in U.S. currency and monetary instruments.

Additionally, BEST units have initiated approximately 8,490 investigations.

Jamie Zapata was a Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent from Brownsville, Texas who was killed in the line of duty on February 15, 2011 while serving on assignment in Mexico for United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

This bipartisan bill, named in Jamie Zapata's honor, seeks to enhance our nation's abilities to deal with the dangerous activities occurring near our borders and, hopefully, prevent the tragic deaths of more of our agents. These are men and women who put their lives on the line in order to protect our country's interests.

We know that this program works and has provided American citizens with improved border security and greater security throughout the United States.

I urge my colleagues to support the ``Jamie Zapata Border Enforcement Security Task Force Act,'' which will ensure that our agents tasked with securing our border, who work under extremely perilous circumstances, are better protected through enhanced information sharing and greater collaboration between agencies.

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