Sinema, Lankford Introduce Bipartisan Bills Boosting Border Patrol Workforce, Cracking Down on Smugglers’ Use of Drones

May 10, 2023

Senators’ bipartisan bills bolster border security by ensuring Border Patrol can better recruit & retain agents and has the tools needed to protect Arizonans from modern technology border threats

WASHINGTON – Arizona senior Senator Kyrsten Sinema, Chair of the Border Management Subcommittee, partnered with Republican Senator James Lankford (Okla.), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee, to introduce the bipartisan Border Patrol Enhancement Act – legislation improving Border Patrol staffing – and the bipartisan Protecting the Border from Unmanned Aircraft Systems Act – legislation combating smugglers’ use of drones along Arizona’s border.
“A secure border relies on a strong Border Patrol workforce. Our legislation equips Border Patrol agents with the resources and support to secure the border, protect Arizona communities, and ensure the fair and humane treatment of migrants,” said Sinema, Chair of the Border Management Subcommittee. 
“Biden just authorized sending 1,500 active duty U.S. troops to our southern border because of a mess he created and he won’t fix. To make matters worse, Title 42 expires tomorrow, which will likely bring a flood of new threats to our southern border. Instead of making sure Border Patrol has the tools and personnel they need, the Biden Administration has tied the hands of our Border Patrol, which has made it hard to recruit and retain the best and brightest. We should pass our Border Patrol Enhancement Act to be sure Border Patrol has the people and tools they need to do their job and the incentives to bring in the best people. We need to call upon the Federal Aviation Administration to make sure we have a strategy in place to combat unmanned aircraft systems that continue to challenge our border security and help the cartels scope out our border. As Biden refuses to address his failures at the southern border, our border law enforcement need us to stand up for them, and I’m glad to continue to work with Senator Sinema to find solutions to the issues they face today and the technology they will have to contend with tomorrow,” said Lankford.
Sinema and Lankford’s bipartisan legislation improves Border Patrol staffing by setting a staffing level for Border Patrol based on the needs outlined in a Personnel Requirements Determination Model, and increasing pay rates for Border Patrol agents.
The Tucson and Yuma sectors have had recruiting and retention problems for years, and increasing migrant encounters diverts Border Patrol agents from their core duties and towards migrant processing. Temporary duty assignments from other sectors help the Tucson and Yuma Sectors maintain appropriate staffing, but when additional sectors are overwhelmed by migrant arrivals, it will not be possible to sufficiently staff all sectors.
The Senators’ bipartisan Protecting the Border from Unmanned Aircraft Systems Act requires the U.S. Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, and Defense, along with the Federal Aviation Administration, to develop an interagency strategy to combat unauthorized drones along the border. This strategy includes assessments of the federal government’s counter-unmanned aircraft system capabilities, privacy protections, intelligence tools, training programs, resources, and research efforts along the border. The bill also includes important provisions to increase transparency regarding drone-related threats along the border, encourage more robust interagency research and development efforts, and ensure the federal government protects the privacy and civil liberties of Arizonans lawfully operating drones.
Last year, a single sector of the border in Texas saw more than 10,000 illegal drone encounters. In November 2021, Yuma Sector Border Patrol agents caught a drone smuggling 6.5 pounds of heroin across the border; according to reporting, it was the third drone captured smuggling drugs that year in Yuma. The need for interagency counter-drone coordination along the border was also highlighted by an incident where, according to news reports, the Border Patrol encountered a highly-modified drone within the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base’s restricted airspace near Tucson.