November 19, 2019

VIDEO: Udall joins Representative Escobar, Border State Residents in Calling on the Senate to Pass the Homeland Security Improvement Act

Delegation of border community residents, including advocates from New Mexico, traveled to Washington, D.C. to call for Senate action on Udall-sponsored bill


WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) joined U.S. Representative Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) and border state residents for a press event to call on the Senate to pass Udall’s Homeland Security Improvement Act. The corresponding House bill sponsored by Escobar, H.R. 2203, passed in a 230-194 vote in September 2019.

The Senate companion legislation, S.2691, was introduced by Udall, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), and several other Democratic senators, and is pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee.  The bill would create a new ombudsman within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to improve accountability and oversight, require DHS to take community input when developing and implementing its policies, and improve transparency with robust public reporting on department activities. 

The delegation of border state residents at the press event, organized by the Border Network for Human Rights, included constituents from New Mexico, the El Paso, Texas area, and other southern border communities.  The border delegation traveled to Washington to visit with U.S. Senators to seek support for Udall and Escobar’s Homeland Security Improvement Act.

“New Mexico’s border communities are proud, vibrant, and fundamental to the fabric of our state,” said Udall. “Our border communities are on the front lines. They represent the best of our state and nation. These border communities need and deserve real engagement – and accountability -- from the Department of Homeland Security. But what they get is not good enough.

“Thousands of New Mexicans interact with Border Patrol and Homeland Security officials each day. They feel the effects of DHS policies first hand. When the Trump administration stokes rumors about mass roundups, they sow fear in our immigrant communities. Forcing kids to stay home from school, forcing people to miss doctor’s appointments,” Udall said.

“The communities that are hurt by this administration’s anti-immigrant policies deserve a voice. Put simply: New Mexicans – and all Americans -- should have an outlet to raise their concerns  to improve functions at the border,” Udall continued. “That is why I’ve introduced the Homeland Security Improvement Act to bring accountability and transparency to DHS. This bill is a direct response to the needs and concerns of those who know the border best—the people who live there. 

“This bill has already passed the House, thanks to Congresswoman Escobar’s hard work.  Now we need to get it through the Senate. I’m committed to fighting alongside all of you here with me – to get this done,” Udall concluded.

Currently, DHS develops its own rules and policies for the conduct of operations along the border without meaningful input from stakeholders, particularly border communities – creating increasing tension between the agency and the public. The Homeland Security Improvement Act significantly improves DHS operations by incorporating community input on enforcement policies and programs and improves transparency by requiring robust reporting on actions and operations.

Text of the legislation and further information is available here.

In the Senate, the Homeland Security Improvement Act is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).