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House looks to add pressure on border enforcement this week

by Candice Miller on May 30, 2012

By Pete Kasperowicz – The Hill

The House will be looking to pass two bills this week aimed at dealing with violence at the southern U.S. border and creating a strategy to improve border enforcement.

The first, from Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), would allow the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to set up Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST) units to address drug trafficking, arms smuggling, illegal alien trafficking and kidnapping across the U.S. border.

Under the bill, H.R. 915, federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement officers would be encouraged to coordinate better to address these crimes, and would be able to benefit from increased information-sharing.

The Jaime Zapata Border Enforcement Security Task Force Act is named after Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent Jaime Zapata, who was killed while on a BEST team in Mexico. The bill was not the subject of a hearing, but enjoys bipartisan sponsorship.

The second bill, from Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.), is a Republican bill that would require DHS to “produce a plan to gain operational control of the border within five years and taking into account staffing requirements, infrastructure, including pedestrian fencing, vehicle barriers, use of unmanned aerial vehicles, technology and sensors.”

Upon introducing the bill last year, Miller said DHS has failed to secure the southern border, and that it needs to develop some plan for doing so.

“The Administration has no plans to gain additional miles of border under operational control either this year or next — this is unacceptable,” she said. “The lack of urgency to confront the problem puts this Administration at odds with the demands of the American people who are calling for a cohesive and comprehensive plan to gain and maintain operational control of the border.”

While the bill is backed by Republicans, the House Homeland Security Committee approved of the bill by voice vote last September. Both bills are on the suspension calendar, meaning they will require a two-thirds majority vote for passage.

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