A bipartisan group of U.S. senators on Thursday introduced a bill to establish a 2,500-member reserve border force and increase agents’ pay by 14 percent amid the crisis at the southern border.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, introduced the legislation co-sponsored by Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), and Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.).
“This bill would create a 2,500 agent reserve force, increase the number of total Border Patrol agents to 20,500, and raise Border Patrol pay by 14 percent to be more competitive with other federal law enforcement agents, including other agents under the Department of Homeland Security,” according to the Senate committee.
The legislation also seeks to standardize professional development and training requirements for all Border Patrol agents.
Portman said that record illegal immigration, coupled with restrictive laws and not enough resources, is pushing America’s southern border crisis “towards a catastrophe.”
“Every time I’ve visited with Border Patrol, they have made it clear that they need increased funding to recruit and retain agents. At a time when our southern border crisis is heading towards a catastrophe, we must provide Border Patrol with the tools and resources they need to do their jobs,” Portman said in a statement.
“That’s why I am pleased to introduce this bipartisan legislation to address recruitment and retention challenges by authorizing a raise for agents, and create a Border Patrol Reserve to provide the support our Border Patrol agents need as the influx of unlawful migrants and illicit narcotics continues to worsen.”
U.S. Customs and Border Protection reports an average of over 200,000 encounters each month. The agency reported more than 1.4 million single adult encounters nationwide so far in 2022, more than double the rate in 2020.
National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd praised the bill, describing the record rates of illegal immigration and drug smuggling via the southern border as “unprecedented public safety and public health crises.”
Judd said record numbers of Americans are dying of drug overdoses from illicit substances flowing across the border, brought into the country by “individuals defying our laws with no consequences.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drug overdoses have increased by 28.5 percent, peaking at over 107,000 in 2021. Overdose deaths increased 15 percent from 2020 to 2021, and by 30 percent between 2019 and 2020.
“This legislation will dramatically enhance the ability to recruit and retain highly professional Border Patrol Agents and invest in these Agents who risk their lives trying to secure our border every day,” Judd said. “The ongoing lawlessness and the tragic loss of lives cannot continue and we urge the Senate to consider and pass the Border Patrol Enhancement Act immediately.”
‘Morale Is Low’ Among Border Patrol Agents
Oklahoma Republican Lankford said the job of Border Patrol agents has become difficult because they’re restricted in how they can enforce the law.
Their proposed bill, he said, would give agents “tools they need to do their job” safeguarding America’s national security and the incentives to attract new agents.
“I remain extremely grateful to Border Patrol agents for staying focused on our national security, even in this season of chaos on the border,” Lankford in a statement.
He also blamed President Joe Biden for the flow of illegal aliens into the United States via the southern border.
“Biden continues to encourage illegal border crossers to enter the U.S., and our Border Patrol stand between U.S. citizens and people from 150 countries coming into our nation, potentially connected to the Mexican cartels or terrorist organizations worldwide.
“I’ve heard from Border Patrol directly that morale is low because their hands are tied when trying to enforce the law, which makes it difficult to recruit and retain the best and brightest,” he said.
The bill’s other co-sponsors echoed the concerns about the resources or staffing needed to protect American communities and safely deal with illegal aliens.
Arizona Democrat Sinema said the bipartisan group’s proposed legislation addresses the staffing and resource problem and will provide the “strong workforce” needed to “secure the border, protect our communities, and ensure the fair and humane treatment” of illegal aliens.
Fellow Democrat Kelly said agents are putting their lives on the line every day to secure the border and keep communities safe.
“Our bipartisan bill will give the hardworking men and women of the Border Patrol the support, resources, and pay raises they deserve. We’ll keep working with Republicans and Democrats to ensure that our law enforcement has the tools needed to recruit and retain agents so we can ensure a secure, fair, and orderly process at the border,” said Kelly.