U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R- W.Va., made several stops in the Eastern Panhandle Monday to see firsthand how federal funding has helped expand and improve the training being done by two Customs and Border Protection training facilities in the area, noting the key role West Virginia is playing in the efforts to maintain order at the nation’s southern border.
On her list of stops, Capito, the top Republican on the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, which oversees the training component of the budget within the Department of Homeland Security, as well as CBP, made a visit to Summit Point, where she met with CBP and Xator Corporation leadership, as well as took a tour of the CBP facilities at Summit Point.
During her visit to the Eastern Panhandle, Capito also visited the CBP Advanced Training Center in Harpers Ferry, meeting with Director Maria Otero, discussing the future ATC plans and touring the facility.
According to information from Capito’s office, the main purpose for her visit was to see how the investments Capito helped provide through Homeland Security funding were being used, as well as any new developments at the locations and to learn about plans for future growth.
“The strains on the system are huge, and there’s a lot to not just detect — people coming across the border but also the flow of drugs — so training is exceedingly important,” Capito said. “And, after seeing what I saw in Harpers Ferry today and what we saw at Summit Point, it really shows that West Virginia is playing a leading role here in training agents that have been in the field for awhile and training new agents.”
According to Capito, her visit allowed her the opportunity to see a new training class at the Harpers Ferry facility, as well as new technology being utilized to train and better protect the border, including drone work.
“I think I saw at the border at least 1,000 unaccompanied minors who are being housed, detained and processed, in very tough conditions, with overcrowding,” Capito said. “We have to figure out a way — and I would encourage the administration to deter people from coming across illegally. It all goes together; you have to have deterrence and the professional workforce in place to treat people with strength and compassion in order to handle this.”
According to Capito’s office, she announced last year that CBP would award a contract of $9 million to the USACE for expansions at the ATC facility in Harpers Ferry as part of the ATC’s Master Plan, and it would serve as a central hub for CBP to develop its training curriculum.
While this project has benefitted West Virginia by expanding the number of personnel who work at the ATC, it has also helped to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of training provided there for federal and local officials to improve safety for all Americans, said Kelley Moore, Capito’s communications director, in an email to The Journal.
Capito’s visit to border patrol training facilities in the area came days after she visited El Paso on Friday, where she joined a bipartisan group of senators and DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to assess resource needs and ongoing humanitarian and security challenges at the southern border.
According to Moore, the group visited and toured several facilities in El Paso to help inform efforts in Congress to address these ongoing concerns and took a tour of a CHS Trail House, a state-licensed facility contracted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement, which provides care to unaccompanied minors while they wait to be placed with a sponsor.
In addition, the group toured the Paso Del Norte Port of Entry operated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, where they viewed screening procedures and drug detection efforts and a CBP Central Processing Center, where CBP processes asylum seekers — including unaccompanied minors and family units — that have crossed the border.