Homeland Security Approps Bill Funds Pivotal Programs (Rep. Gabrielle Giffords)

I represent Southern Arizona.  My district shares 120 miles of border with Mexico.  We are facing a security and immigration crisis.  The flood of illegal immigrats and drug trafficking continues to place an undue burden on first responders, schools, and law enforcement.

Currently, the Tucson Sector is the most porous section of the U.S.-Mexico border.  Every day approximately 2,000 individuals are apprehended and 2,500 pounds of drugs are seized on the Southern Arizona border.  While most illegal immigrants come here to work, nearly 10% are involved in criminal activities.

Nationally, the Border Patrol arrests over 1 million illegal aliens annually, and seizes over 1 million pounds of marijuana and 15-20 tons of cocaine every year.

Smugglers' methods, routes, and modes of transportation are potential vulnerabilities that can be exploited by terrorists attempting to bring weapons into this country.

Border security must be strengthened, and all of the options for accomplishing this must be on the table. Success requires a multifaceted approach.  We need to build fences, deploy sensors, and utilize the latest technology such as UAVs and take advantage of advanced detection equipment.

I'm pleased that this legislation makes border security a priority and provides the funding we badly need.  The improved border security that this bill will fund is a crucial component in passing comprehensive immigration reform that is tough, practical and effective.  I hope to work with my colleagues in the House to pass the other components of comprehensive immigration reform at a later time.

The bill we are discussing today provides $8.8 billion for the Customs and Border Protection agency, which is $50 million above the President's request and $647 million-nearly 8 percent-above FY 2007.  It provides funding for 3,000 additional Border Patrol agents in FY 2008 - which will bring the number of Border Patrol agents to 17,819 by the end of FY 2008.

The bill also funds the SBI, or Secure Border Initiative, at the President's requested level of $1 billion.  It requires the Department of Homeland Security to justify how it plans to use these funds to achieve operational control of our borders.

I urge my colleagues to pass, and I urge the President sign, this important legislation. Our border communities urgently need this funding to stem violence and lawlessness and prevent terrorism along the southern border.