TUCSON, AZ (AP) The massive Homeland Security appropriations bill Congress passed will bring aboard 790 new Border Patrol agents, including an unspecified number for Arizona.
It also will provide $35 million for construction of roads, lights and barriers on the Arizona-Mexico Border, and two replacement Border Patrol stations in the state –– at Sonoita and Willcox –– with facilities for processing and detaining illegal immigrants.
The $31.9 billion budget package includes $9 billion for border security nationwide.
Sal Zamora, a Border Patrol spokesman in Washington, said it was too soon to say where and how agents and other new resources will be deployed.
“It would be safe to assume that the Southwest border is the focus and that Arizona and New Mexico will receive some of the new agents,’ Zamora said.
The border and immigration provisions of the bill are “a huge step forward in getting serious about securing our border with Mexico,” said U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, R-AZ.
With the new detention facilities, there will be 20,300 beds nationwide for illegal immigrants caught from countries other than Mexico. Many now have to be released pending the removal process for lack of bed space –– most of whom subsequently disappear within this country to avoid removal.
Kyl said the $35 million in infrastructure investments will be “force multipliers,” significantly improving the Border Patrol’s ability to cover distant and remote areas along the border.
Kyl and Sens. Peter Domenici, R-NM, and John Cornyn, R-TX, held a teleconference briefing on the measure, with Kyl saying the three are committed to passage of a complete immigration reform package as well as a temporary guest worker program.
“But we don’t have to wait until then to take giant steps to better control our border,” said Kyl, adding that the appropriations bill will help accomplish.
“There is enough money in this appropriations bill to make a giant step for personnel, technology and facilities and all the other things we need to get a handle on border security,” Kyl said.