Tester crafts legislation to enhance border security, technology; opposes wall

by Missoula Current, Martin Kidston

Sen. Jon Tester this week announced legislation to add more federal agents to the nation’s northern and southern borders while applying new technology to improve national security.

Tester, a ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Committee, said President Trump’s costly proposal to build a 19-foot-tall wall on the southern border would only lead to a boom in business for companies building 20-foot ladders.

In a phone interview with state media, Testers said there are smarter and more cost-effective ways to address the issue without trampling civil liberties.

“The president’s proposed border wall will cost taxpayers upwards of $1.6 billion, and the White House has no plan about how they’re going to spend that money,” Tester said. “We have a plan that will make our border even more secure and address other security gaps without wasting billions of taxpayer dollars.”

Tester said his Homeland Security appropriations measure would fund an additional 500 U.S Border Patrol agents to help crack down on illegal border crossings, drug smuggling and human trafficking.

It would also improve security at smaller and rural airports and invest in smart technology, such as fiber optic detection technology, including that designed in Montana.

“There are folks out there who are not our friends, so we need to protect both our northern and our southern borders,” Tester said. “These are bad folks who will go to the weakest link in our security system and try to do us harm, so it’s up to Congress to work together to responsibly secure our borders.”

Tester said his legislation also looks to push back against Trump’s proposed cuts to reimbursement programs to Transportation Security Administration law enforcement programs. He believes the programs are important to securing smaller airports across the country.

While preserving national security is a top issue, Tester said, doing so cannot infringe on civil liberties. Tester said his measure would require U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detail the equipment it would use to monitor cellphone conversations.

“We need to tighten our belts, but we cannot leave our rural communities with a target on our backs for ISIS or drug dealers or anyone that might want to do us harm,” Tester said. “We must secure our border, but we cannot waste taxpayer money with something that won’t be the most effective thing possible.”