The United States House of Representatives has approved an amendment introduced by Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi to the budget assignments for the Department of Homeland Security. The amendment sought to increase the funds Customs and Border Protection has in Puerto Rico for drug related interventions.
“In 2011, due to a lack of funds, CBP closed a unit of marine patrols of critical importance in San Juan – the same that in 2010 intercepted more than 7,000 pounds of drugs. Currently, CBP has no legal authority to use funds from the national expenditures account and the specific Puerto Rico account simultaneously for its missions in the island. My amendment seeks to provide flexibility and the discretion that the agency needs to use different funding sources, and that way be able to meet its responsibilities in Puerto Rico” said Pierluisi.
Current law prohibits the use of more than one funding assignment from Congress for the same purpose, otherwise known as double dipping. This limitation is a general one and affects all agencies and their missions. The purpose of the amendment is that CBP be able to use both the funds assigned for national operations, as wells as those specifically budgeted for the Puerto Rico Trust fund to funds its operations in the island. The Trust Fund draws on tariffs and fees that CBP charges in Puerto Rico, but those funds are not sufficient to cover all expenditures of the agency in the territory.
The need for this amendment, especially when the budget proposal of President Obama for the 2014 fiscal year estimates that the Puerto Rico Trust Fund will receive $98 million, which is $8.1 million or almost 8% less than in 2012. The adoption of this amendment ensures that the operations against drug trafficking of CBP are not affected due to lack of funds. At the same time, it will promote the general interests of the United States in terms of national security on its borders, given that 80% of the drugs that enter Puerto Rico are transported to the states” indicated the Resident Commissioner.
The amendment had the support of democrats and republicans in Congress.