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Rep. Vela to propose $4B in funds for border security infrastructure at ports

January 3, 2019

U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, and other Democratic congressmen plan on introducing legislation Thursday to reopen the government, according to a news release.

As Democrats begin the New Year with control of the House, the congressman said they were ready to pass legislation that would open the government that shutdown in late December after President Trump declined to support a bipartisan effort to fund the government just days before the deadline.

“ On Thursday, as Democrats take over control of the House of Representatives we will immediately pass legislation to open up the government. This legislation mirrors the Republican-led effort that passed the Senate unanimously before the president shut down the government,” the release stated.

The proposals include one that would fund government agencies for the rest of the year, except for the Department of Homeland Security, which is responsible for border security, among other things.

The Democrats plan on a bill that would partially fund DHS through Feb. 8, affording the Trump administration and Congress additional time to negotiate a long-term solution to fund it, as Trump continues to say he won’t sign any bills that do not include money for a physical wall.

Vela, who points out that 75 percent of discretionary government operations are fully funded through September, said the legislation would fund six of the seven agencies currently closed due to the shutdown.

Some of the agencies affected by the shutdown include agriculture, commerce, justice, interior and state, to name a few.

The legislation would give “negotiators time to work out a final agreement that will fund the Department of Homeland Security for the rest of the fiscal year. This effort will ensure that every federal worker is paid,” Vela said.

In recent days, Trump has signaled that he would not sign any legislation that did not have funding for physical walls along the U.S.-Mexico border, a promise he made during his run for the presidency in 2016.

“ The Democrats, much as I suspected, have allocated no money for a new Wall. So imaginative! The problem is, without a Wall there can be no real Border Security - and our Country must finally have a Strong and Secure Southern Border!” Trump tweeted Tuesday.

After a bipartisan leadership briefing in Washington on Wednesday, which included Trump, reports indicated the Senate would not take up any bill proposals that the president would not support.

The congressman said he would also continue to work to protect local environmentally sensitive spaces being threatened by border wall construction.

“ To the extent that physical barriers have either been previously funded or might be funded in the future, we are working with House and Senate leadership not only to protect the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge but also to legislatively protect the Lower Rio Grande Valley Wildlife Refuge and SpaceX, Bentsen State Park, La Lomita Chapel and the National Butterfly Center in Mission,” Vela said in the release.

Construction at the National Butterfly Center, Bentsen State Park and the La Lomita Chapel could begin as early as next month.

He is also proposing $4 billion for additional border security infrastructure for ports of entry, where the majority of the drugs smuggled into the U.S. pass through.

“ Legislators from across the United States have expressed serious concerns with respect to addressing the nation’s opioid and fentanyl crisis,” the congressman states. “The fact is clear that 85 to 88 percent of the fentanyl and opioid seizures occur at our ports of entry.

Vela said allocating funds to help the ports is a better approach than that of using resources for a physical wall along the border.

“ For that reason, I believe that federal resources dedicated to these measures are a much better bang for the buck than wasted border wall funding,” the release states.

lzazueta@themonitor.com

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