Udall Secures Resources for N.M. Wildfire Prevention, Border Security, FLETC in DHS Appropriations Bill
WASHINGTON - Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall joined the Appropriations Committee in approving a bill that provides critical Fiscal Year 2015 funding to protect New Mexico's border; ensure our ports of entry operate smoothly; and address the use of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Artesia to detain women and children in removal proceedings.
Udall also included an amendment that would help New Mexico communities prevent serious wildfires. The amendment would allow state and local governments to qualify for hazard mitigation grants - a pool of funding that is usually only available after floods or other storms - to recover from and mitigate the impact of future wildfires. It was approved by a voice vote during the committee debate.
"Wildfires are hitting New Mexico and the West with increasing frequency and severity during the current extended drought," Udall said. "This funding will help communities recover and take steps to prevent extensive damage after future fires. This amendment won't increase spending but it will provide fairness to New Mexico communities that often feel the effects of wildfire for years after the fire is extinguished."
Highlights of the bill:
-Funding to maintain 21,370 Border Patrol agents nationwide, sustaining the increased levels approved in the fiscal year 2010 Border Security Supplemental Appropriations Act.
-Funding to maintain 23,775 Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers currently working at our 329 ports of entry today plus hire an additional 1,000 new CBP officers.
-Full funding to maintain and improve the employment eligibility verification system known as E-Verify.
-A provision authored by Udall directing CBP to work with counties along the U.S.-Mexico border to identify unimproved county roads predominately used by Border Patrol and urging CBP to incorporate the maintenance and repair into its budget.
-Full funding for the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers, which are used to train law enforcement personnel from more than 90 agencies. FLETC-Artesia is used to train all Border Patrol agents.
-A provision authored by Udall directing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to report to Congress what the impact is on FLETC-Artesia and the surrounding community of housing almost 700 undocumented women and children awaiting deportation. The provision directs DHS to communicate fully and transparently about its current and future plans for the new uses of CBP/ICE facilities with states and local governments and urges DHS to avoid imposing financial burdens on those states and communities as a result.
"New Mexicans understand the challenges we face as a border state, and I am proud to fight for resources to help ensure our borders are secure while enabling international trade to be conducted smoothly and safely," Udall said. "Artesia, New Mexico, plays an important role in our border security by hosting FLETC. The facility is now part of our national effort to address a humanitarian crisis that has caused thousands of Central Americans to flee violence in their home countries. DHS must communicate clearly with Artesia and other affected local communities about its plans to house migrant families and children awaiting deportation and ensure those communities won't face additional costs or security concerns. It also must assure Congress and the local communities that migrant families are being housed in a safe, clean and humane environment."
U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich said: "As we continue to face severe drought in New Mexico, funding for wildfire prevention programs is important now more than ever. We know firsthand that the work does not end once a fire is put out, the impacts are experienced for months or years after. I'm pleased this appropriations bill also includes funding to help facilitate interstate commerce at our nation's ports of entry. Our challenge moving forward is to ensure our border communities thrive and benefit from their unique bi-national culture and economy. And as we continue to address the humanitarian crisis along our southern border, I'm encouraged this proposal directs DHS to communicate fully with states and local governments on its intention to house undocumented families and urges DHS to avoid imposing financial burdens on those communities as a result."
Other funding in the bill includes:
Assistance to Firefighters Act (AFG) and the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Act (SAFER): Fully funded at Udall's request of $680 million.
-Communities may apply for SAFER grants to hire and pay new firefighters, or recruit and retain volunteer firefighters. The SAFER program complements the very successful AFG program, through which the federal government provides funds for training and equipment to fire departments all over the country.
National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center (NISAC): $18,650,000.
-The NISAC at Sandia National Labs was established in 2002 through the Patriot Act to serve as the nation's leading center on critical infrastructure simulation, modeling, and analysis. National security concerns on critical infrastructure resilience continue for natural disasters and weapons of mass destruction and have expanded to include emerging threats related to cybersecurity.
Tethered Aerostat Radar System (TARS): Fully funded at Udall's request of $35.6 million.
-TARS supports both counter-narcotic enforcement and air domain awareness missions. The TARS program has assisted CBP with interdicting suspect aircraft for over 20 years. TARS units are currently in operation along the U.S.-Mexico border and support both counter-narcotic enforcement and air domain awareness missions. Six sites are located on the Southwest border, one site is in Florida, and one site is in Puerto Rico.
Roads Heavily Used By Border Patrol
-At Udall's request, the DHS appropriations bill includes this provision directing CBP to help fund maintenance and repairs on county roads used primarily for border patrols:
The Committee urges CBP to work with counties along the U.S.-Mexico border to identify unimproved county roads which are predominately used by Border Patrol and that provide critical access to the border region for the purpose of maintaining security. The Committee further urges CBP to incorporate the maintenance and repair of the identified high-priority access roads into its Tactical Infrastructure Maintenance and Repair program.
-At Udall's request, the bill includes this provision directing DHS to work closely with local communities as it houses families in removal proceedings:
The Committee understands that the Department is seeking temporary solutions for detention of family units and directs the Department to report on the use of non-CBP/ICE facilities, such as the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Artesia, New Mexico, for family units, including the average length of stay in detention in these facilities, the removal status of these individuals, the impact of the facility's use on the local community, and the impact on the facility's primary mission. The Committee also directs the Department to communicate fully and transparently regarding their current and future plans for the new uses of non-CBP/ICE facilities with host States and communities. The Committee further urges the Department to avoid imposing financial burdens on those States and communities as a result of new uses of such facilities.