Thornberry stresses need for better coordination on border security
Nov 29, 2012 -
Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-Clarendon) continues to press the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to meet the needs of local law enforcement in dealing with illegal immigration.
On Tuesday, Thornberry drew attention to the CBP station closures in an official House Floor statement supporting the Jaime Zapata Border Enforcement Security Task Force Act. The legislation, H.R. 915, is aimed at enhancing collaboration and information sharing among agencies within DHS and was one of five bills passed by the U.S. House of Representatives to improve the department.
In his statement, the Congressman urges DHS agencies, such as CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), to work and communicate with state and local law enforcement on how best to deal with border security and illegal immigration responsibilities. The statement comes as part of a continued effort by Thornberry to address concerns about a CBP proposal to close several interior Border Patrol stations, six of which are in Texas, including one in Amarillo. Law enforcement officials believe that if the stations are closed and federal agents from CBP or ICE are unable to respond to the scenes of illegal alien apprehensions in the future then they may be forced to release the individuals. Below is a copy of the official statement:
Today I am supporting H.R. 915, the Jaime Zapata Border Enforcement Security Task Force Act. This measure would establish Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST) teams within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to facilitate “collaboration among federal, state, local, tribal, and foreign law enforcement agencies to execute coordinated activities in furtherance of border security and homeland security” and enhance information sharing among the agencies.
This mission is a very important one. And I encourage DHS to consult with local and state law enforcement on how these teams could best be used to fill gaps in border security.
I am particularly concerned about a proposal to close several interior Border Patrol stations. As an example, from 2007 through 2011 Border Patrol agents assigned to the Amarillo station made from 383 to 745 apprehensions per year. Despite this volume, the Border Patrol proposed closing its Amarillo station—along with eight other interior stations, six of them in Texas. The absence of the Amarillo interior Border Patrol station would leave no federal agency for hundreds of miles to take custody of illegal aliens or to assist local law enforcement with investigations.
I do not know whether the BEST teams authorized in this measure could fulfill the responsibilities of the Border Patrol stations that are proposed for closure. But I strongly recommend that DHS continue to examine ways to ensure that this vital federal responsibility is fulfilled.
In July, CBP announced an overview of the proposed station closures, but officials have yet to detail how local law enforcement agencies will deal with immigration enforcement in the affected areas without the assistance of federal agents. Thornberry’s office has been working with other members of the Texas congressional delegation and local law enforcement from the 13thDistrict –including sheriffs, police, prosecutors, elected officials, and others—to press CBP and ICE to provide a plan for what will happen if the stations are closed.
Aside from the planned closings in Texas, there are also proposed closings in Billings, Montana; Twin Falls, Idaho; and Riverside, California. The closures have been delayed by Congress until March of next year.