This is the fifth consecutive year the House approved the Traficant amendment.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The House of Representatives approved an amendment offered by U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. that would permit the military to assist federal law enforcement officers with drug interdiction and counter-terrorism at the U.S. borders.
"Never has America been more threatened and let me ask this question of Congress: How do you defend your home if your front and back doors are unlocked, and they are unlocked," said Traficant, of Poland, D-17th, on the House floor.
The House approved Traficant's amendment by a 242-173 vote. This marks the fifth consecutive time this proposal has received House approval. It died in the House-Senate conference the previous four times, said Charles Straub, Traficant's spokesman.
But Traficant is hopeful it will be enacted into law in light of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Straub said.
Amendment details: The amendment authorizes the Department of Defense to assign troops to assist the Border Patrol, Immigration and Naturalization Service, and Customs Service at the nation's borders, including the inspection of cargo, vehicles and aircraft at points of entry. That assistance can be provided only at the request of the attorney general, secretary of the Treasury, the director for homeland security or the president.
The troops have the authority to detain people but no authority to make arrests, and they must be accompanied by federal law enforcement agents during patrols.
"We have a responsibility to secure our nation," Traficant said on the House floor. "This is a national security location, our borders. What do we stand for if we can't secure our borders? How many more Americans will die? And I hate to say this, but I assure you they will."
Reasons for 'no' votes: The congressmen who voted against the amendment did so for a variety of reasons, including their concerns that the proposal was a shot against Mexico and legal immigration across that border, Straub said. But that is a misconception, he said.