In an effort to prevent another lapse in federal funding, U.S. Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall on Thursday introduced three proposals aimed at addressing needs in remote areas of the southern border region and bolstering economic development in border communities.
One bill would provide Border Patrol agents with increased medical training and EMT certification, as well as deliver enhanced language interpretation services and voice access to physicians or health care providers at all Customs and Border Protection remote stations and southern land-based ports of entry.
A second proposal would increase commercial hours of operation at some of the nation’s busiest southern land ports of entry and direct CBP to conduct a study of designated port of entry locations to identify improvements to redesign, modernize and improve efficiency.
The third piece of proposed legislation would make investments in technology and equipment in rural and remote border areas, such as New Mexico’s Bootheel. The bill also includes a new pilot program designed to address Border Patrol personnel retention.
“Instead of wasting billions of dollars on a border wall that New Mexicans don’t want or need, we should make smart, responsible investments,” Heinrich said in a statement. “I am proud to introduce pragmatic proposals that address the gaps in the border security debate and reflect the realities of our border communities.”
A “massive, wasteful wall” along the entire southern border, Udall said in a statement, is not a realistic or effective approach to keeping people safe or keeping the nation secure.
“We face complex challenges at our border, and those challenges demand serious and common-sense solutions like those included in these bills,” Udall said. “… I hope Congress can move beyond the president’s message of division and work toward these meaningful solutions.”
Facing a Feb. 15 deadline, a bipartisan group of congressional negotiators continues to work on a plan to fund border security measures and the Department of Homeland Security through the end of the fiscal year.
President Donald Trump has threatened to shut down the government for the second time since December or unilaterally declare a national emergency if he is not satisfied with an agreement reached on border security.
The shutdown that started just before Christmas lasted a record 35 days and affected 800,000 government employees.