MCALLEN, TEXAS- Montana’s senior Sen. Jon Tester made his first trip to the southern border this past weekend to see some of the challenges being faced by U.S. Customs and Border Protection as an influx of people continue to come into the country from Mexico illegally.
As the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Homeland Security sub-committee, Tester will help decide how much money the government should spend on the agencies that protect the border.
He spent time with Border Patrol agents and visited a detention center in McAllen, Texas, where hundreds who have entered the country illegally were being held. He toured one of the ports of entry where thousands of vehicles and people cross into the country each day. And he met with farmers and landowners who are concerned that the wall would cut off their property and doubt how effective it would be.
President Trump has declared a national emergency over the situation on the border to try and get his wall built. Tester said after visiting the border that he still doesn’t think that would be necessary or cost-effective.
“I see most of that being done with technology and manpower. In the places where the wall is necessary, go ahead and build it. But I’m telling you there is a better and more cost-effective way of doing this and if we listen to the people are on the border and those are doing customs and protection. I think we can find agreement and move forward in a way that makes sense for this country,” said Tester.
Tester also flew to Coast Guard Island in Alameda, Calif., to see the work the U.S. Coast Guard is doing patrolling borders and meet with top officials.
“I think that is where the Coast Guard is really impacting the conversation about the border. It’s about interdicting drugs to the sea. Those are the enablers that are the push factors that make people make decisions to send their kids north to try and enter the United States,” said Admiral Karl Schultz, Commandant for the United States Coast Guard.
Both the U.S. Coast Guard and Customs and U.S. Customs fall under Homeland Security.
Editor’s note: Russ Riesinger traveled to the border with Sen. Jon Tester to report on border issues first hand. Here are his previous reports: