Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) today applauded the White House’s announcement that the Border Jobs for Veterans Act has been signed into law. First introduced in the Senate by Flake, McCain, U.S. Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y) 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 outgoing U.S. military service members. The Border Jobs for Veterans Act will not raise costs or impact existing veteran hiring authorities.
McSally introduced the companion bill to the Border Jobs for Veterans Act in the House of Representatives on June 18.
“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 cross-border trade and grow Arizona’s 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.”
“This is how Washington is supposed to work,” said McSally. “We identified a problem, put together a bipartisan solution, and worked together to get it across the finish line and signed into law. This new policy will help fill the vacancies at our ports of entry with qualified, trained service members, helping them transition to civilian life while addressing the staffing shortages at our ports. I’m proud to be part of this bipartisan effort to get results on a local problem, and will continue to work to advance commonsense, achievable solutions on the issues important to Southern Arizonans.”
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 Sept., 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 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 reentering 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, out of Committee.
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 can be viewed here.