Mar 08 2016
Senator Also Offering an Amendment to Assess & Strengthen Security Along the U.S.-Canada Border, the Longest Common Land Border in the World
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today pressed U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson to make sure the Administration pays closer attention to the nation’s 5,500-mile-long Northern Border.
Johnson testified at a U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (HSGAC) hearing on the President’s 2017 homeland security budget. Heitkamp, who sits on the committee, urged Johnson to guarantee the Northern Border is not an afterthought and that DHS has a strategy for protecting it.
“To make sure we’re thoroughly looking at every angle to keep our country safe, we cannot ignore the Northern Border,” said Heitkamp. “When I’ve been up on our Northern Border – including with the second in command at DHS – I’ve seen the excellent work U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents are doing in North Dakota. But the federal government needs to do more to recruit and retain the agents our nation needs, and to give them the best possible technology and equipment to do their jobs. Beyond directly pressing the Administration to address challenges at the border, I’m also pushing for my bipartisan bill to assess and strengthen Northern Border security. The United States and Canada have a strong bond, and it’s critical to both countries’ security that we understand how best to protect the Northern Border.”
The Northern Border has 120 border crossings, many of which are small and in rural areas. Approximately 300,000 people and $910 million in trade cross the Northern Border every day, representing the largest bilateral flow of goods and people in the world.
This week, Heitkamp also offered her bipartisan bill to assess and strengthen security of the Northern Border as an amendment to legislation pending in the U.S. Senate. Heitkamp introduced the legislation last year with Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and it was unanimously approved by HSGAC. Heitkamp last week helped introduce a bipartisan bill on preclearance that will ease travel and commerce between the U.S. and Canada.
Heitkamp and Ayotte’s bipartisan Northern Border Security Review Act directly responds to the feedback Heitkamp and DHS Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas heard in April 2015 from federal, state, county and local officials and law enforcement when she brought him to North Dakota to tour the Northern Border and the Port of Entry and Border Patrol facilities in Pembina.
By requiring DHS to conduct a comprehensive examination that fully evaluates security threats and challenges at the border, Heitkamp and Ayotte’s bill would address concerns federal border security officials and local sheriffs discussed with Heitkamp and Mayorkas about cooperation issues among law enforcement, and challenges in recruiting and retaining a strong border security workforce.
Heitkamp and Ayotte’s bill would require a comprehensive examination of how to strengthen American security at the Northern Border by looking into issues with:
- Recruiting and retaining border security officials to cover the Northern Border, including at more remote areas of the border;
- Determining tools border security officials need to effectively combat drug and human trafficking at the Northern Border – with a particular focus on opioids, heroin, prescription drugs and fentanyl;
- Identifying technology that could expand the reach of border agents; and
- Finding the best ways for U.S., Canadian, state, county, local, and tribal law enforcement to cooperate.
Cosponsors of Heitkamp and Ayotte’s bill include Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Susan Collins (R-ME).