Bill to boost borders with X-rays, cameras, security efforts

| Friday, March 07, 2003

U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici March 5 introduced the Border Infrastructure & Technology Modernization Act (S.539), which would authorize $925 million for the 197 U.S. border crossings with Mexico and Canada.

"It has been more than 17 years since we launched a major effort to upgrade border infrastructure, and that was focused on the Southwest. It was before dramatic trade escalation with Mexico and Canada. It was well before terrorists made us sensitive to the threat that lax border security poses," Domenici, R-NM, said.

"It is time to change that and move forward with a methodical and comprehensive process of modernizing our land borders with Mexico and Canada. This work will be costly, but necessary," he said. "We know what must be done, and it is finally time that we do it."

Key Provisions
Improvements range from constructing facilities for cargo inspections, to installing X-ray machines and security cameras, to even fixing leaking roofs and plumbing. To address these needs, act authorizes $100 million per year for five years to implement infrastructure and technology improvements.

In addition, $50 million would be used to create technology testing and demonstration sites on the northern and southwestern borders. These sites will give border agencies the opportunity to test, evaluate and refine port-of-entry technologies and operational concepts, and train personnel under realistic conditions, Domenici said.

The act also provides for an annual Land Border Security Plan with port vulnerability assessments, involving coordination between federal, state and local entities involved at the borders, as well as the private sector.

Some other highlights:

  • An additional $30 million as well as additional staff to expand the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism programs that will seek support from private industry in security matters.
  • An increase in the number of inspectors and support staff in the Bureau of Customs and Border Security of the Department of Homeland Security by an additional 200 each year for five years.
  • The addition of 100 or more special agents and support staff each year for five years to the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security.

The bill is cosponsored by Sens. Byron Dorgan, D-ND, Jon Kyl, R-AZ, Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, Lisa Murkowski, R-AK, John McCain, R-AZ, Conrad Burns, R-MT, Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-TX, and Patty Murray, D-WA. Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-AZ, is expected to introduce a companion bill in the House of Representatives.

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