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Wednesday, March 26, 2014 - 6:56pm
LAS CRUCES, N.M. — Party lines were put aside Wednesday with a bi-partisan bill introduced in Congress that would enhance training for Customs and Border Protection officers and also increase transparency
Republican Steve Pearce of New Mexico and Democrat Beto O'Rourke of El Paso introduced the bill to improve transparency on border patrol efforts.
"Just the idea that the agencies are being looked at by Congress will have an impact," Pearce said.
The bill received strong support from constituents with dozens of area residents demonstrating outside Pearce's Las Cruces office as the legislation was being introduced in Washington.
Members of the Border Network for Human Rights applauded the congressmen for their efforts.
"We're so grateful for Beto O'Rourke and Steve Pearce working together," said Monica Garcia with BNHR. "It's very important for us."
The bill would establish an independent Border Oversight Commission that would have subpoena power to review the agencies' pratices and make recommendations for improvement.
The Border Patrol National Legislative Committee helped draw up and is in support of the legislation.
The National Border Patrol Council Local 1929 feels the legislation would also allow them the opportunity to let people know what they deal with out on in the field.
"Border Patrol agents face deadly situations on almost a deadly basis so we hope this will clear up some of these non-factual allegations made by special interest groups," said Stu Harris, Vice President for the Local 1929 National Border Patrol Counci.
Pearce and O'rourke proposed strict reporting of use of force incidents and migrant deaths.
During the introduction of the bill, O'rourke said there's been 5500 migrants that have died over the last 15 years while trying to cross into the United States.
The proposal would require the agencies to report if any of their work plays a role in added deaths.
Pearce said the data will then allow the oversight commission and Congress to go to the agency and say this is where there's room for improvement.
"By demanding the measurement and by demanding this reporting that tells what is happening now it's going to get better," Pearce said.
Pearce added the bi-partisan effort sends a strong message to Washington and the agencies on the importance of what's happening along the border.
"We're saying to the customs and border patrol officials, we want you to do your job and we want you to do it right," Pearce said.