Jun 06 2014
Heitkamp Brings Chairman of Senate Homeland Security Committee to ND to Assess Northern Border Challenges
Senators Meet with Local Officials to Discuss Law Enforcement Issues, Including Drug and Human Trafficking
MINOT, N.D. – U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today brought U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) to North Dakota to see the state’s northern border with Canada firsthand and speak with local officials about the security challenges they face as the state’s population has boomed.
Heitkamp and Carper are working together to improve border conditions with their work on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Carper is Chairman of the Committee, which has jurisdiction over the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and Heitkamp is a member of the Committee.
The Senators took a helicopter tour of parts of the North Dakota border with Canada and held a meeting – which included Border Patrol agents, local sheriffs, police chiefs, Bureau of Indian Affairs Law Enforcement and Federal Bureau of Investigation Agents – to give North Dakotans an opportunity to have their voices heard by Carper, a national leader in homeland security issues.
“We do have very serious issues with our southern border, but I’m constantly reminding folks that we must also focus on the very real challenges we have in North Dakota and all across our northern border,” said Heitkamp. “As our population has boomed, we have seen increases in drug and human trafficking and we need to make sure our border patrol has the resources to handle any increase in movement. Because of his tremendous influence on homeland security policy, I wanted to make sure Senator Carper saw firsthand our border, and spoke with the hardworking North Dakotans who keep us safe every day.”
“I’d like to thank Senator Heitkamp for inviting me to join her here in North Dakota, and for her leadership on these critical security issues affecting her state and our nation. As I learned during today’s aerial trip of North Dakota’s northern border and the roundtable with local law enforcement, communities here in North Dakota have their own set of challenges as a result of their location and the state’s recent economic prosperity, including the growing threat of human trafficking,” said Carper. “As Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, I will be sure to keep the concerns, ideas and perspectives I heard today in mind as we work within our Committee and with the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies to better protect and serve border communities here in North Dakota and throughout the nation.”
North Dakota has 17 border crossings, many of which are small. With the changing dynamics in the state due to the energy boom, the state is experiencing many challenges with border crossings, including human trafficking, illegal trade, illegal immigration and national security threats. Recently, the CBP announced it is assigning 15 additional officers to Pembina and five additional officers to Portal. Earlier this year, Heitkamp traveled to Grand Forks to tour the CBP facility and get an update on issues facing the nearby border crossings.
Nationwide, the northern border is more than twice as long as our southern land border with Mexico, which Heitkamp visited in April. Approximately 300,000 people and $1.5 billion in trade cross the northern border every day, representing the largest bilateral flows of goods and people in the world.
In the Senate, Heitkamp has worked to combat crime, including drug and human trafficking, in western North Dakota. Last year, she brought National Drug Control Policy Director R. Gil Kerlikowske to the area, which resulted in Williams County being named a county available for significant federal resources to fight drug trafficking in the area. Heitkamp has also taken repeated action to fight sex and labor trafficking, including leading a Senate hearing on the issue, introducing legislation to protecting victims and help prosecutors combat trafficking, and traveling to Mexico, Arizona, and Minnesota, in addition to all across North Dakota, to push for action.
While in North Dakota with Heitkamp, Carper will also learn more about the state’s energy production and discuss issues North Dakotans are facing with the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). The Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee has jurisdiction over the USPS. Heitkamp has played a key role in bringing attention to the problems North Dakota, and rural areas across the country, have experienced with the USPS and is working to find solutions.