Press Releases

Cantwell, Larsen Helping Northern Border Communities Meet Security Needs

Washington, DC, March 2, 2007

Friday, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and U.S. Representative Rick Larsen (D-WA) reintroduced their proposal to help northern border communities cover the cost of detaining and prosecuting suspects charged with federal border crimes.  Cantwell introduced the bipartisan Northern Border Prosecution Initiative Reimbursement Act as an amendment to the Improving America’s Security Act (S. 4).  Larsen introduced the measure as stand-alone legislation in the House.  The proposal would set up a reimbursement program to help border communities continue their vital role in keeping our country secure without breaking their budgets.

“Our northern border communities are on the front lines when it comes to border security, but we are not doing nearly enough to help them,” said Cantwell.  “Border counties in our state pay for and prosecute as many as 85 percent of the border arrests made in our state each year.  We’re already helping our southern border communities with security costs.  It’s time we do the same along our 4,000-mile northern border.”

“Whatcom County is spending more than 2 million dollars a year to prosecute federal border crimes,” said Larsen. “This bill will help relieve the heavy financial burden imposed on our northern border communities.  Congress has a responsibility to provide the necessary resources to keep our communities safe.”

“It is essential that we are giving local authorities and law enforcement the funding, tools and resources necessary to secure the Northern Border and keep our communities safe,” said Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the lead Republican cosponsor of the House bill. “Counties such as Okanogan, Ferry, Stevens, and Pend Oreille accrue tremendous costs associated with border-related crimes and deserve to be reimbursed by the federal government.”

Modeled on an existing, successful program for the southwest border, the Northern Border Prosecution Initiative Reimbursement Act (H.R. 1291 in the House) would authorize $28 million annually to reimburse northern border communities for the cost of prosecuting cases, detaining suspects, and constructing holding spaces.  Reimbursements would cover investigations and arrests initiated by federal law enforcement officers, as well as any case involving a violation of federal border security law referred to state or local authorities for prosecution. 

Larsen introduced this bill in the House in 2002, and he and Cantwell have reintroduced it in each successive Congress.  In 2006, the Senate version was included in the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act passed by the Senate in May.  However, the immigration legislation later stalled and the Northern Border Prosecution Initiative Reimbursement Act never received final approval from Congress. 

Earlier this week, Cantwell also joined Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) in introducing a separate, complementary amendment to supply additional resources to local law enforcement officers working along America’s borders.  The measure would set up a grant program to help law enforcement serving communities within 100 miles of the U.S. border.  Funds allocated under the grant program could be used to hire additional personnel, obtain new equipment, upgrade law enforcement technology, and cover over-time and transportations costs.

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