EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — Members of Congress who represent Southwestern states want to see a mile-by-mile analysis of technology and manpower needed to effectively secure the U.S.-Mexico border.
On Wednesday, they expressed support for the Senate’s Southwest Border Security Technology Improvement Act of 2020 and announced the filing of a companion bill in the House.
“It’s a way we can identify what our biggest needs and the right mix in terms of personnel, technology and infrastructure along our border,” said U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, D-New Mexico, a House co-sponsor.
Technology can fireproof the security of a border wall or provide an alternative to it in mountainous terrain; it can also detect tunnel-building and alert border agents to potentially dangerous situations, she said.
Also a co-sponsor, U.S. Rep. Michael Cloud, R-Texas, said an unsecured border fosters drug cartel activity and endangers those who know the border is porous and come here illegally.
“It’s past time for Congress to come together and finally secure our southern border,” Cloud said. “Our southern border law-enforcement officials rely on technology to do their jobs and keep us safe, but significant gaps in this area pose a threat to our national security and should be filled immediately. The longer this is left unaddressed, the more people will suffer.”
The legislation directs the Department of Homeland Security to identify technology needs and gaps along the Mexican border in order to:
- Prevent terrorists and weapons from coming into the country;
- Reduce the smuggling of drugs, people and illegal merchandise;
- Speed up the flow of legal goods at ports of entry;
- Upgrade security technology and optimize the use of aircraft, tower-based surveillance, non-intrusive inspection technology and ground sensors, among others;
- Upgrade and provide communications technology to border agents;
- Propose other technological needs that would improve border security, such as physical barriers (like a border wall) or dual-purpose infrastructure;
- Evaluate the impact on border security of any health-related emergencies and state what is needed to search, rescue and provide medical assistance for stranded individuals or groups.
The legislation also directs DHS to inform lawmakers about trends and forecasts in border migration patterns, as well as any staffing needs or technology needed to make up for lacking staff.
Torres Small noted that the legislation has bipartisan support and has been endorsed by the National Border Patrol Council and the Border Trade Alliance. “These are folks who recognize the value of security as well as facilitating trade,” she said.
“Border security shouldn’t be driven by politics. It should be treated as an objective national security issue,” added co-sponsor U.S. Rep. Elisa Slotkin, D-Michigan. “This bipartisan legislation does exactly that by requiring the Administration to create a strategy for integrating new technologies in its approach to border security.”
The bill’s sponsors in the Senate are Republican John Cornyn of Texas and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.