Today, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed an amendment to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Appropriations Act of 2012 (H.R. 2017) offered by Congressman Ted Poe (TX-02) and Congressman Jason Altmire (D-PA). The amendment transfers $10 million to the Border Security, Fencing, Infrastructure and Technology account in order to improve the public safety of residents of the rural areas of the United States near the border with Mexico by enhancing access to mobile communications. Congressman Poe first became involved in this issue after Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) invited him to the border to see the effect of the lack of wireless communications in this area firsthand.
This is a Homeland Security issue. The inability of the U.S. Government to secure the international border with Mexico creates public safety hazards for residents of border areas and the law enforcement agents who patrol them, said Poe. Many border areas are rural and lack wireless communications capabilities like cellular phone service, exacerbating public safety concern. If the Federal Government is not going to protect its citizens who live in fear each day on the border, the least it can do is give people the resources they need to communicate.
Cell phone dead zones are so common along the border that ranchers in Arizona and Texas rely on short wave radios to communicate and call for help. On March 27, 2010, Arizona Rancher Robert Krentz was murdered 20 miles north of the border in an isolated area. The lack of communications capability made Krentz more vulnerable than he would have been otherwise and complicated the search for the assailant. His wife believes that he was in a cell phone dead zone where he was killed and that he was trying to call for help at the time.
Congressman Poe has been a leading advocate in Washington to secure the U.S.-Mexico border. For a list of sponsored and cosponsored legislation related to border security, please click here.
Prior to serving in Congress, Congressman Poe served as a prosecutor and judge in Houston, Texas for 30 years. Poe regularly travels to the southern border and is recognized by the Border Sheriffs Coalition as a top supporter of law enforcement and border security. Congressman Poe serves on the Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security; the House Committee on Foreign Affairs; and as an Executive Member of the Immigration Reform Caucus.