McMorris, Larsen, Cantwell, Introduce Bill to Help Border Communities with Security Costs

(Washington, DC) –A bill introduced in the U.S. House and Senate late last night will reimburse local communities along the Northern Border for costs they bear in prosecuting and detaining people apprehended at the border and for border-related crimes.

“Securing our Northern Border is an essential part of keeping our nation and communities safe,” said U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris (R-WA). “It is crucial that we ensure our border agents and local authorities have the funding and resources necessary to protect our region. I am committed to securing our borders; providing law enforcement agencies with adequate border security personnel, technology and resources; and strictly enforcing current immigration laws.”

The federal government currently reimburses local governments along the Southwest Border for costs incurred while handling federal/border related cases. No similar program exists for the Northern Border. The Northern Border Prosecution Initiative Reimbursement Act (H.R. 4228) as introduced today would alleviate the burden on Northern Border communities like those in Whatcom and Spokane counties whose criminal justice resources are depleted when federal agencies pass on cases to local authorities and the U.S. Attorney’s office chooses not to prosecute. The impact on the local police forces, court systems, prosecutor offices, and public defenders is extreme.

“Every year Whatcom County is forced to pay more than $2 million out of its own pocket to incarcerate, prosecute, and provide defense services for border-related cases,” U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA) noted. “The Southwest Border communities aren’t expected to foot the bill for federal cases. Our cash-strapped local communities shouldn’t be either,” he stressed.

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) said, “We can’t keep sticking financially strapped local communities with the bill for prosecuting federal crimes on the northern border. If we’re going to make sure our northern border stays secure, we need seamless cooperation between state and federal governments, and we need to get federal support to the local level.”

Specifically, the bill would provide direct reimbursement to cities and counties for expenses, including the costs of prosecution, detention of suspects, court costs, and construction of holding spaces. Reimbursable expenses would also include the cost of prosecuting expensive cases resulting from the investigative work of multi-jurisdictional task forces. Reimbursements would be available as long as the investigation or arrest was initiated by federal law enforcement including the Border Patrol or any case that involves a violation of federal law that has been referred for prosecution by federal authorities.

U.S. Reps. Rick Larsen (D-WA) and Cathy McMorris (R-WA) are lead sponsors in the House. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) is the lead sponsor in the Senate.

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