Johnson City Press: Blackburn talks 'heartbreaking' border conditions, Iran conflict, military funding bill
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Blackburn talks 'heartbreaking' border conditions, Iran conflict, military funding bill

David Floyd • Jun 27, 2019 at 7:44 PM

The recent deaths of 25-year-old Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his 23-month-old daughter Valeria have been another tragic entry in the ongoing national debate about immigration at the border between the U.S. and Mexico.

“It is just absolutely heartbreaking to hear these stories and see the conditions on the Southern border,” U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., said during a conference call with reporters on Thursday in response to a question about the deaths. The senator took a trip to the border in early June. “This is why it’s imperative that we change these asylum laws.”

During the briefing, Blackburn covered a handful of topics, including the ongoing conflict with Iran, recent work on the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act and a bill she introduced this week that’s designed to curtail federal funding for abortion.

Ramírez and his daughter, according to the Associated Press, died while trying to cross the Rio Grande River.

Blackburn noted U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officials  have consistently said the agency needs a barrier at the Southern border, additional technology and more agents.

“They need judges that can hear these cases,” she said. “Right now they have a backlog of over 800,000 cases.”

Iran

Blackburn said she’s supportive of the new sanctions President Donald Trump imposed on Iranian leaders this week, which according to Reuters were designed in part to be a response to the country shooting down an unmanned U.S. drone last week.

“What we do know is this: Iran’s economy is in shambles,” she said. “They have lots of regional proxies that do some of their bidding and carry out their work.”

Blackburn pointed to a May 18 Washington Post story that reported Iran has cut the amount of money it sends to the Lebanese Hezbollah militia since the Trump administration imposed new sanctions on trade with Iran last year, which Blackburn said has hurt the organization’s ability to conduct “adverse actions.”

“We know the Iranian people are suffering,” Blackburn said, “It’s difficult to buy product, to buy food.”

Referencing historical conflicts with the country, including the Iran hostage crisis in the late 1970s, Blackburn said the country’s issues with Iran are not new.

Military policies

Blackburn said Thursday that she’s placed several new policies in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, a bill that will appropriate funding for the U.S. military, based on suggestions she’s heard from her Tennessee constituents.

That includes a provision that would allow the spouses of military personnel who have jobs with licensure requirements to go to work immediately when they move to a new state rather than reapply through a different state licensure process.

“We’ve heard from so many of our military spouses that this would save them a year or a year and a half if they’re teaching and wanting to get into a school to teach and use that certification from another state,” Blackburn said.

The bill also includes a provision that would change how the government tracks the deployment length for members of the National Guard.

“Extended periods away are causing stress on their civilian jobs and it makes it difficult for them to plan their workload, to plan for their families as these deployments have stretched from three months to six months to nine months to a year,” Blackburn said. “Some have even had a 14-month deployment.”

Blackburn said the bill also includes investment in the U.S. Space Force, a new branch of the military announced by the Trump administration in 2018.

Abortion

This week, Blackburn said she introduced the Protecting Life and Taxpayers Act in the Senate, a bill designed to curtail the use of public funds for abortions.

“60% of all American taxpayers oppose tax dollars being used to fund abortions,” she said. “This would make certain that those Title X dollars that the federal government sends out for women’s health are going to clinics that actually are providing women’s health and not go to abortion facilities.”

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