Border lawmakers are asking Congress for emergency funding to combat cartel-related violence, or else, they say, they can “wait and watch the violence unfold across the Rio Grande.”
The comments from U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, mark a decided shift from the careful balance lawmakers generally seek when highlighting border security needs. Historically they have acknowledged the possibility of a spillover in violence but in the same breath reminded skeptics their districts are not the war-torn counterparts to Mexican border cities.
Recent violence affecting U.S. citizens, however, has prompted nine legislators to ask that emergency funding for border security be included in the 2010 fiscal year emergency supplemental package, which is currently in draft stages before the House Appropriations Committee.
“We are at a tipping point,” added Cuellar, the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Border, Maritime, and Global Counterterrorism. “Our options are clear and we need Congress to move.”
The request was part of a letter sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer by U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-El Paso. Reyes is the chairman of the House Select Intelligence Committee. In it, lawmakers seek $200 million for communications equipment along Texas’ rural border with Mexico, at least $70 million to hire 500 additional Customs and Border Protection officers, $100 million to sustain U.S. Border Patrol salaries and $40 million to provide thorough background checks on CBP applicants, whose ranks lawmakers allege could be infiltrated by organized crime elements.
The request comes one month after then-interim CBP Commissioner David Aguilar announced the Department of Homeland Security was postponing a planned springtime pay raise for federal agents until October.
Reyes also requested $10 million to compensate border medical providers treating victims of cartel-related violence that occurred in Mexico. Several victims in Juárez have been transferred to University Medical Center, formerly called Thomason General Hospital, in El Paso. The medical center was once forced into lockdown for security purposes as a result.
Adding their names to the request were Reps. Solomon Ortiz, D-Corpus Christi; Ruben Hinojosa, D-Mercedes; Bob Filner, D-California; Harry Teague, D-New Mexico; Ciro Rodriguez, D-San Antonio; Susan Davis, D-California; and Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona.