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Congresswoman Escobar, Border State Lawmakers Introduce Bicameral Bill to Bolster Infectious Disease Monitoring and Support Border Health Initiatives

Congresswoman Veronica Escobar led border state lawmakers in introducing H.R. 4812, the Border Health Security Act to strengthen multi-country cooperation to screen for infectious diseases and support vital public health initiatives in border communities like El Paso. While millions of residents who live in border regions are citizens of different countries with independent public health infrastructures, these regions are highly interdependent with shared economic interests.

This bicameral and bipartisan legislation is cosponsored by Representatives Juan Vargas (CA-51), Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-03), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-02), Tony Gonzales (TX-23), Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15), and Filemon Vela (TX-34).

U.S. Senators Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) introduced companion legislation in the Senate.

The Border Health Security Act is endorsed by the National Rural Health Association.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has deeply impacted the economic vibrancy of the U.S.-Mexico border region and has exposed the unique public health challenges binational communities face,” said Congresswoman Escobar. “International collaboration has never been more important to fight this deadly virus and mitigate future infectious diseases. I am proud to introduce the Border Health Security Act to promote critical collaboration with our Mexican and Canadian neighbors and build on my efforts to protect and improve the health of El Pasoans.”

“Over this past year, the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the public health challenges and vulnerabilities that come from the close relationship with our neighboring countries,” said Congressman Gonzales. “This bipartisan legislation will improve coordination with Canada and Mexico to solve border health issues and address the spread of infectious diseases, creating healthier communities across our district.”

“While COVID-19 cases around the globe continue to increase, the United States must work with Mexico and Canada to address emerging public health threats to keep our border communities safe and protected. Strengthening our coordination with Mexico and Canada will help address the unique challenges that border communities experience,” said Senator Luján. “This bicameral bill will boost our preparedness for future public health threats and help save lives across the United States.”

“I am proud to join Rep. Escobar in introducing the Border Health Security Act of 2021,” said Congressman Vargas. “It is our duty to ensure that the health of border residents – many of whom have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic – are prioritized when planning for future health emergencies.  By dedicating grant funding to infectious disease surveillance and public health emergency readiness plans, we are making a commitment to the people in our southern and northern border regions.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated just how crucial a coherent, coordinated public health strategy is to the long-term health and safety of border communities in Arizona,” said Congressman Grijalva. “This legislation will ensure coordination between the United States and Mexico on important health issues and facilitate the cross-border conversations and policies needed to mitigate negative impacts of future public health crises.”

“I’m proud to support this crucial border health legislation. As a representative of a border district, I know first-hand the importance of cross-border communication and collaboration,” said Congresswoman Kirkpatrick. “As we’ve seen over this past year, COVID-19 didn’t stop at our border or state lines; we must learn from this, expand our processes and dedicate robust resources to ensure our neighbors and our communities stay safe and healthy.” 

“Diseases don’t recognize international borders. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that North American cooperation and coordination is vital to protect the people of the United States, Canada and Mexico,” said Congressman Gonzalez. “This bill is critical to South Texas’ and the entire continent’s ability to prepare for, respond to and confront emerging health threats.”

“Ensuring we continue to coordinate resources, and effectively communicate and share information between the United States, Mexico, and Canada is essential to protecting our border communities from COVID-19,” said Congressman Filemon Vela “I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing this critical piece of legislation that will not only help bolster health infrastructure along the border, but also help protect the public health of the nation.” 

“Public health is an important step towards safety and security at our southern border – which includes the protection of border communities, border patrol, and migrants. The Border Health Security Act is especially relevant as the Rio Grande Valley encountered a recent surge of COVID-19 amongst border agents and migrants last month. Specifically, the 28th district of Texas has many residents who live in medically underserved minority and rural communities - formulating a large number of children and parents who are either uninsured or underinsured. That is why we must prioritize rural health and the unique impact that health policy can have on border security.”  said Congressman Cuellar. “This bill will enhance security and preventive health in Southern Texas by strengthening coordination with HHS, Mexico, and Canada. It will also provide health grants to address infectious disease testing, primary care, and maternal health. As a resident of a border community, and a senior member on the Appropriations Committee, I will continue to support and highlight legislation that recognizes the unique challenges of border communities.”

“The National Rural Health Association applauds Representatives Escobar and Gonzales and Senators Luján and Heinrich for their commitment to improving health outcomes on the United States-Mexico border. Enacting a comprehensive health care strategy is critical to ensure the diverse, rural population on the border is able to combat emerging disease threats such as COVID-19, the West Nile virus, and other non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and obesity,” said Alan Morgan, Chief Executive Officer of the National Rural Health Association. “The Border Health Security Act of 2021 will help address these emerging threats by requiring members of the United States Mexico Border Health Commission to cooperate with the Canada-United States Pan-Border Health Preparedness Council to implement proven solutions and by allowing border health grants to be used to address longstanding epidemics plaguing this population. NRHA is committed to working with Congress to ensure this diverse, rural population has the tools needed to create positive health outcomes.”

To view a summary of the bill, please click here. To find text, please click here.

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