May 03, 2024

The Time for Maritime Border Security Is Now

Recently, a video went viral of an unidentified boat crashing onto the coastal shores in our district. After landing, a group of people hopped out of the boat and into cars, completely disregarding our maritime border security measures and evading law enforcement. We have no idea who these people were or where they came from.

This wasn’t a one-off offense. Our district has seen these types of incidents in the past.

Over the years, unidentified vessels have used our coastal waters to come into our country without much resistance. Last year, I met with Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Air and Marine Operations to hear about agents’ challenges in securing our maritime borders. I learned that CBP only has the legal ability to patrol up to 12 nautical miles off our coasts, which is insufficient to fully protect our maritime borders. If we want to crack down on this problem, Congress needs to change the law to give CBP greater jurisdiction.

Fast-forward to last month. The viral video underscored the urgency of passing a bipartisan maritime border security bill, H.R. 529, the Extending Limits of U.S Customs Waters Act. The bill would extend U.S. customs waters from 12 to 24 nautical miles, giving CBP the jurisdiction to adequately interdict drugs like fentanyl and ensure that agents can effectively and efficiently address any suspect vessels.

Initially, the bipartisan bill was supposed to get a vote in the House of Representatives at the beginning of April. Unfortunately, due to internal House Republican disagreements, the vote was tabled. In the aftermath of the video, I pushed House Speaker Mike Johnson to reschedule the vote.

This week, my efforts helped lead to the overwhelming passage of the bill by a bipartisan vote of 402-6. While I am glad to see this bill move forward, it was long overdue. Now, it is up to the Senate to advance the legislation and get it to President Biden for his signature and enactment into law.

The bill’s passage is a positive step in addressing our border and immigration challenges, but ultimately, we need more comprehensive, bipartisan solutions that tackle the complexities facing our country. There is no one-size-fits-all approach.

As the representative of a coastal district, I understand the complex immigration challenges we face by land and sea. Addressing these issues in an era of divided government requires we work together in a bipartisan manner.

The passage of H.R. 529 and the recent government funding package, which increased funding for CBP, are proof that we can still get things done. Congress must keep the momentum going to tackle our broken immigration system and support law enforcement officials.

Ultimately, these issues impact all of us regardless of our party or political beliefs. We are at an inflection point: either we work together in good faith to confront our nation’s border challenges, or we keep going down a partisan, unsustainable path.

I’m committed to working with both my Republican and Democratic colleagues to negotiate and deliver results on border security and immigration. Recently, I helped launch the Democrats for Border Security Task Force to do just that. We know bipartisan action is possible.

Our local economies, communities, and neighbors are depending on us to solve these complex problems. We must keep moving forward.

U.S. Representative Mike Levin represents the 49th Congressional District, which includes the South Orange County cities of Dana Point, San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano. He was reelected for a third term in 2022 and resides in San Juan Capistrano with his wife and two children. DP

By:  Rep. Mike Levin
Source: Dana Point Times