Feb. 29, 2004 – Members of the U.S. House of Representatives' Homeland Security Committee visited the territory Saturday as part of a bipartisan congressional delegation trip to review homeland security issues including drug trafficking and terrorism links.
The trip focused on issues particularly affecting Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; Miami, Fla.; and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The delegation received an update on the progress of efforts to stop illegal drug trafficking in the territory and the use of Homeland Security funds, at a briefing at the V.I. Port Authority headquarters.
"We've seen a very close connection between drug financing and terrorism financing," Homeland Security Committee Chairman Christopher Cox, R-Calif., said in a brief press conference at the Crown Bay Dock Saturday.
"One of the things we're trying to do is to see whether our homeland security efforts are working with this side of the hemisphere," Rep. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Mass.
Democrat Rep. Eleanor Holmes-Norton, of the District of Columbia, said the group was "impressed with what you appear to be doing with Homeland Security funds."
The delegates would not specify their findings, however.
V.I. Delegate Donna M. Christensen, who is also a member of the Homeland Security Committee, was instrumental in influencing the group to visit the territory. Christensen said she was glad to have the committee come to "hear about the progress we are making and our vulnerabilities" in regards to homeland security.
"Although this trip is very brief, we're trying to pack in as much information as possible," Christensen said.
The committee members boarded the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Ocracoke after the press conference where they continued for a tour of the island and further briefings. The group also visited the Hovensa Oil Refinery on St. Croix before leaving the island Sunday.
House Homeland Security Committee members attending were: Cox; Republican Rep. Jennifer Dunn of Washington state; Republican Rep. Robert Goodlatte of Virginia, Norton, Thompson and Christensen.
When committee members were first named in February 2003, there was a total of 26 majority and 22 minority members.
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