New border security bill focuses on tech

A new congressional bill calls for better surveillance of land and maritime borders through unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), sensors, cameras, satellites and radar coverage.

Introduced late Monday by Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, the Border Security and Terrorism Prevention Act (H.R. 4312) also calls for a comprehensive surveillance plan.

That plan would include an assessment of technologies currently used at the country’s borders and how new surveillance tools would fit with existing ones. It would also describe specific surveillance technologies, barriers to use, costs and maintenance needs and how the U.S. Border Patrol can work with the Homeland Security Department’s Science and Technology Directorate.

The bill also instructs DHS to create a national strategy for border security that would involve conducting risk assessments of all ports of entry, proposing cost-effective methods for defending borders, identifying staffing needs, prioritizing research and development objectives, and improving coordination among the various federal, state, local and tribal governmental entities, among other activities.

According to the proposed legislation, DHS and the Justice Department must enhance connectivity between the FBI's Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System and DHS’ Automated Biometric Identification System. Currently, Border Patrol agents search both databases.

DHS and the Defense Department should also develop a joint strategic plan to make greater use of DOD equipment, such as UAVs, radar and other surveillance devices, the bill proposes.

“This bill recognizes the need to bolster our border security capabilities by authorizing more funding for Border Patrol agents, utilizing physical barriers and state-of-the-art technologies, and promoting international policies that will help deter illegal immigration and protect valid claims of asylum,” King said in a statement.

Representatives Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) and Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) are co-sponsoring the bill, which has been referred to the House Homeland Security, Armed Services and Judiciary committees.

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