WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, the top-ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, recently introduced a bill to reauthorize the Department of Homeland Security’s program that targets transnational criminal organizations on the border and at U.S. ports in order to combat drug and weapons trafficking and other crimes. The bipartisan House version of the bill was approved unanimously earlier this month.
“Cracking down on illegal smuggling into our country is essential to Missourians’ safety,” said McCaskill, a former prosecutor. “Securing our borders isn’t only about people—it’s about ensuring that we keep out the drugs and weapons that fuel violence within the United States, and I look forward to working with President Trump and my bipartisan colleagues in the House and Senate to make sure this bill passes.”
The Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST) program that the bill reauthorizes consists of teams that coordinate federal, state, tribal, and local law enforcement efforts targeting drug trafficking and other transnational criminal activity. Prior BEST team investigations have led to over 13,000 arrests and significant drug
s and weapons seizures. The program was established with the passage in 2012 of the Jaime Zapata Border Enforcement Security Task Force Act, which McCaskill supported.
McCaskill has been a longtime advocate for increasing border security and earlier this year toured the U.S.-Mexico border to learn more about what Customs and Border Protection needs to increase border security. Her efforts in 2010 led to the placement of 1,000 new border patrol agents, new unmanned aerial vehicles, improved communication equipment and more to monitor the border without adding to the deficit. In 2012, her bipartisan bill to combat illegal underground border tunnels—cosponsored by Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona—passed unanimously in the Senate and was signed into law. And bipartisan, comprehensive legislation to address the country’s broken system in 2013 that McCaskill supported would have added 20,000 enforcement agents to the U.S.-Mexico border, while financing the construction of 700 miles of border fence and aerial drones to monitor the border.