Torres Small’s Bipartisan Border Security Bill Passes House

Feb 11, 2020

Washington, DC – Last night, the U.S. House of Representatives passed bipartisan legislation led by Congresswoman Xochitl Torres Small (D-NM-2) as part of her efforts to enact what her offic calls "strong, smart, and fair solutions to the country’s broken border security and immigration system."  Here is a statement from Torres Small's office:

Congresswoman Torres Small, Chairwoman of the Oversight, Management and Accountability Subcommittee, championed this bipartisan legislation to improve border security through enhanced detection technology at land ports of entry.

Torres Small introduced the Securing America’s Ports Act to increase the scanning rates of vehicles entering the United States at land ports of entry with large-scale non-intrusive inspection (NII) systems. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) uses these systems to inspect contents of commercial and passenger vehicles for potential contraband, such as drugs, without physically opening or unloading it.

“Our border security and immigration system is broken, and we need strong, smart and fair initiatives to fix it. The bipartisan Securing America’s Ports Act is all three. By increasing the amount of NII technology at our ports, we will stop more drugs from being trafficked across our border, support the efforts of Port officers who are already stretched too thin, and stimulate cross border trade helping to grow our local economies,” said Torres Small.

“I am proud to join forces with Rep. Torres Small on the Securing America’s Ports Act and we remain committed to this bipartisan national security objective. We need to continue the progress made to put an end to human, drug, and weapon trafficking in the United States. This bill will go a long way to achieve this goal and I urge swift Senate action to send this bill to President Trump’s desk,” said Crenshaw.

In fiscal year 2019, Congress appropriated $570 million for the Department of Homeland Security’s use of NII systems at ports of entry. However, an October 2019 Field Hearing hosted by Torres Small called attention to the fact CBP only currently scans 15% of commercial trucks and less than 2% of passenger vehicles entering the United States. Even for land ports of entry with advanced scanning technology, NII scanning rates vary significantly by land port of entry. Torres Small and Crenshaw’s legislation seeks to improve the use of this highly effective technology.

The Securing America’s Ports Act would require the Secretary of Homeland Security to:

  • Develop a plan to increase CBP’s NII scanning rates to 100 percent of commercial and passenger vehicles at all land ports of entry that includes incremental timeframes and estimated costs by port.
  • Provide annual status reports to Congress regarding efforts to implement the 100 percent NII plan.
  • Conduct research and development to enhance NII systems and improve utilization of NII, given variation of configurations among land ports of entry.

The House passage of Torres Small’s Securing America’s Ports Act is part of a larger set of efforts to address the United States’ broken border policy. These actions include efforts to work with the Trump Administration to use her non-intrusive technology bill as part of talks with the Mexican government, introduction of legislation to improve staffing and resources for rural and remote stretches of the U.S.-Mexico border, and actions to address the challenges facing the U.S. Border Patrol including the need for a new position tasked with providing administrative support for migrant processing.