The Senate voted Thursday for a program that would offer bonuses and incentives to National Guard and reserve members and to veterans who take border security jobs with the Department of Homeland Security.
Passed by voice vote as an amendment to a comprehensive immigration bill, the hiring program includes signing and retention bonuses and student loan repayment as incentives for serving in immigration, customs and border protection jobs.
Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., a cosponsor of the plan, said he sees this as a way to reduce the veterans’ unemployment rate while also getting highly skilled employees.
It is unclear whether this proposal will ever become law; the immigration bill is controversial. The Senate does not yet have a plan for passing it, it has drawn hundreds of amendments, and there is no indication the House will take up the measure.
Pryor said current and former military members have skills that could help in border security, especially those familiar with security equipment and technology.
“They have experience responding to leads provided by electronic sensor systems and aircraft sightings, as well as interpreting and following tracks and other physical evidence,” he said. “They are trained in target assessment and have experience in disseminating the intelligence needed to make informed operational strategies.”
Another plus, he said, is reservists and veterans have “the physical skills, operational experience and decision-making abilities” needed by the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, and the Customs and Border Protection arms of the Homeland Security Department.
Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., who cosponsored the legislation with Pryor, called it “a win-win amendment that encourages our current and former military service members to pursue jobs in border security, adding to the ranks of highly trained professionals dedicated to protecting our nation’s border.”