Tester signs on to bill to increase border security

by Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Freddy Monares

A bill to increase border security and address a shortage of U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers along the northern and southern borders was introduced in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday.

Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill introduced the bill, and Montana Sen. Jon Tester has signed on as a co-sponsor of the legislation. Tester is a member of the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, which is charged with setting levels for security and law enforcement along the two borders.

The legislation is being called the Border and Port Security Act.

Border protection is facing a staffing shortage of nearly 3,600 officers, according to a press release by Tester’s office Thursday. The legislation would require CBP to hire at least 500 additional port officers per year until sufficiently staffed.

In the Thursday release, Tester said the shorthanded CBP is leaving the country’s borders at risk. By hiring more officers, he said, we can strengthen border security and create new jobs in communities across the northern border.

“We need a comprehensive strategy to secure our borders and one of our biggest needs is good, old-fashioned man power,” Tester said.

Tester has been seeking alternatives for a proposal to build a border wall along the southern part of the country. President Donald Trump was elected with a couple of key reforms that he promised his voter-base, one of which was the construction of the wall.

In September, Tester visited with FLIR laboratories in Bozeman, a corporation that specializes in thermal optics and surveillance.

At that meeting, he said he thinks the country could get to a better point by using technology companies, like FLIR, that can supply that technology. He said people needed to be educated on the technology that’s available to help secure both the southern and northern borders.

During the tour, Tester said building a border wall along the southern border might not be the best use of money.

Tester is also pushing for a bipartisan border security package that includes the purchase of protective gear and uniforms made in the U.S. and looking into other alternatives for border protection.

According to the release, Tester met with Trump last week to raise concerns over the law enforcement staffing shortage along the borders.