Senateto OK $20 million border fund

Published on Thu, Oct 11, 2007 by ara Nelson

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Senate to OK $20 million border fund

By Tara Nelson

The U.S. Senate has approved an amendment to provide $20 million in new federal funding to help cover the costs of border-related crimes along the U.S./Canadian border.

The Northern Border Prosecution Initiative was attached as an amendment to the $55 million Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill last week and would reimburse northern border law enforcement agencies for the costs associated with jailing, processing, prosecutors, judges and defense attorneys, according to a statement released Friday.

The move comes after state and local law enforcement agencies here demanded financial help for prosecuting a disproportionate number of federal border-related cases. Whatcom County, for example, prosecutes 85 to 90 percent of all cross-border drug cases initiated by federal law enforcement agencies, said Whatcom County executive Pete Kremen, who helped spearhead the effort.

In 2004, that translated into county law enforcement agencies spending approximately $2.5 million on those cases alone, he said.

“Our community can’t afford to continue to shoulder the entire financial burden created by criminals apprehended at the border,” Kremen said.

The funding will also be used to help fund the capture of fugitives, fight drug trafficking and be distributed by a formula payment based on the number of days from the time the U.S. Attorney’s office declines to take a case until the day the county or city resolves it.

“Our northern border communities are being crushed by the costs of policing and prosecuting border-related crimes,” said Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) in a statement. “This amendment provides the support we owe the northern border communities.”

Senator Maria Cantwell’s office confirmed the original bill includes an additional $750,000 specifically for Whatcom County and an additional $250,000 to coordinate the county’s criminal tracking systems with Canada and other law enforcement agencies.

In 2006, $30 million was spent helping southern border communities cover security costs related to federal crimes.
U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.) also introduced a similar bill in the House in March. That bill, H.R. 1291, authorizes $28 million annually to reimburse northern border communities for the cost of prosecuting cases, detaining suspects, and constructing holding spaces, said Amanda Mahnke, a spokesperson for Larsen’s Washington, D.C. office. It does not, however, set a specific dollar amount for Whatcom County

Larsen first introduced the Northern Border Prosecution Reimbursement Initiative Act in 2002 to help border communities cover the cost of detaining and prosecuting suspects charged with federal border crimes. Since then, he and Cantwell have reintroduced companion bills in the House and Senate in each Congress.

After the full appropriations bill passes in the Senate, the bill will go to a conference committee between the House and Senate.