Border Jobs for Veterans Act Signed into Law

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) applauded the White House’s announcement on Monday that the Border Jobs for Veterans Act has been signed into law. First introduced in the Senate on June 17, the new law will help to put veterans to work as Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at understaffed U.S. ports of entry by requiring the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to cooperate on efforts to recruit and expedite the hiring of U.S. military service members who are returning to civilian life. The act will not raise spending or affect existing veteran hiring programs. 

Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) introduced the companion bill to the Border Jobs for Veterans Act in the House of Representatives on June 18. 

“I am pleased that President Obama signed into law the Border Jobs for Veterans Act, which I cosponsored with Senators Flake, McCain and Schumer. This is an important, incremental step toward enhancing our border security,” said Johnson. “Since becoming chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, I have looked closely at border security through a series of site visits, committee hearings and roundtables. One common theme that has emerged is that manpower plays a vital role in securing the border, both at and between our ports of entry. This bill is truly a win-win: It gives former service members an opportunity to continue serving by ensuring the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense work together to identify these qualified applicants, and it provides the DHS with the best candidates to fill vacancies in remote ports of entry along our borders.” 

The Border Jobs for Veterans Act exemplifies the good that can be accomplished when Congress works in a bipartisan fashion to solve a problem,” said Flake. “When so many commonsense solutions are lost to partisan gridlock, I’m proud to have signed into law a bill that will help to put veterans to work, improve national security, increase trade and grow the economy — all at no additional cost to the taxpayer.”
“I’m pleased to see this bill be signed into law so that we can begin to help veterans find much-needed jobs, meet urgent staffing needs at U.S. ports of entry, and improve the security of our border communities,” said McCain. “I commend Senator Flake and Congresswoman McSally for their leadership, and thank Senators Johnson and Schumer for their support of this important effort, which will create new opportunities for our veterans to continue serving and protecting the nation.” 

Background: At an April 28 hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Flake pressed DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson on concerns over the slow pace of hiring CBP officers to staff ports of entry. As a result, in September, Secretary Johnson confirmed that the agency has yet to fill nearly 1,200 of the 2,000 new CBP officer positions created by Congress in 2014 to improve security and reduce trade-stifling commercial traffic backups at ports. Secretary Johnson has attributed the shortfall to delays associated with applicant background investigations, low polygraph clearance rates and a shortage of federal polygraph examiners, combined with CBP officer attrition.

On May 5, Flake and McCain sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Secretary Johnson proposing that both agencies partner to help military service members re-entering the civilian workforce get jobs at understaffed ports of entry. The Flake-McCain letter and the responses from both agencies can be viewed here.

On June 24, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee unanimously cleared S.1603, the Border Jobs for Veterans Act.

On Aug. 4, the Greater Nogales Santa Cruz County Port Authority sent a letter to Flake and McCain reiterating the economic ramifications of understaffed ports of entry on the Arizona-Mexico border and expressing the group’s support for the Border Jobs for Veterans Act. That letter can be viewed here.

On Sept. 9, the Senate unanimously passed S. 1603, the Border Jobs for Veterans Act.

On Sept. 28, the House unanimously passed H.R. 2835, the Border Jobs for Veterans Act.

On Oct. 1, the Senate unanimously passed the House companion bill to the Border Jobs for Veterans Act. Video of the bill’s final passage, along with remarks by Flake and Johnson can be viewed here.