Feds detail efforts to beef up border securityBy Jonathon Shacat
WICK NEWS SERVICE
BISBEE — Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano laid out plans during a press briefing Tuesday in Washington to help improve the security along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The effort aims to provide assistance to the Mexican government to break up the cartels that are funneling illegal drugs into the U.S. and are committing violent acts in Mexico. Another goal is to guard against an increase in violence in the U.S.
“We’ve seen some increase in violence between — primarily between cartels, themselves — kidnappings, for example, in the Phoenix area and the Houston area. But what we want to do is to better secure the border area against further violence and make it a safe and secure area where, of course, the rule of law is upheld and enforced,” Napolitano said.
She listed numerous actions that are being undertaken by the Department of Homeland Security, in conjunction with the Department of State and the Department of Justice. Many of the plans entail increasing the amount of staff doing work along the border to a total of about 500.
Officials are changing the grant guidance for the remaining balances for a program known as Operation Stonegarden that aims to incorporate other law enforcement services to enhance border security, Napolitano said.
“It will be immediately modified to focus $59 million to enhance state, local and tribal law enforcement operations and assets along the border,” she said. “And we will expand the scope of Operation Stonegarden funds to pay for additional law enforcement personnel, overtime, travel and the like for deployment of state and local tribal officials to the border.”
In reference to the Stonegarden program, Tom Alinen, deputy police chief for the Sierra Vista Police Department, said, “We are chasing, basically, the overtime money for the patrol guys, along with some technology type of equipment.”
The department is looking to try to get a license plate reader that detects if a vehicle is stolen, as well as night scopes for surveillance purposes, he said. Overtime funds would be for patrol interdiction along Highway 90 or Highway 92, he added.
Bisbee Police Chief Jim Elkins, Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever and Marcus Gonzalez, public information officer for the Douglas Police Department, did not respond to requests for comment on this matter on Tuesday.
Napolitano said officials are still considering acting on requests from the governors of Arizona and Texas to deploy the National Guard along the Mexico border with those states.
Gov. Jan Brewer issued a statement saying Arizona is grateful for the efforts of Napolitano and President Barack Obama, but she wants more.
“My recent request to the federal government to increase National Guard support of (the) Customs/Border Patrol primary mission at the U.S.-Mexico border could substantially augment the Obama administration’s important initiative to improve security,” Brewer states.
“And while shifting and redeploying current and existing resources is a good first step, it is more important that border states, local law enforcement and tribal law enforcement receive a surge in additional federal funding and additional resources to respond to the clearly increased threat of violence and kidnappings,” she continues.
She adds she is hopeful that as the resource shift is implemented, additional measures are undertaken to ensure areas losing current officers or funding are not stretched too thin.
Al Garza, national executive director of the border watch group Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, said he thinks that Napolitano “continues to drag her feet when it concerns border security and enforcement of immigration laws” and that Homeland Security officials should be fired for failing the American people.
“The amount of violence and dangerous aspects that have reached into our nation from the south justify immediate deployment of our National Guard, and/or Marine Reserves, at whatever levels necessary,” he said. “We, the citizens, will no longer tolerate our elected officials’ excuses to avoid their jobs. We demand border security and enforcement of immigration laws now.”
In a statement, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, whose district is one of only 10 districts on the border with Mexico, called the new investment of resources and manpower “necessary to ensure the safety of border communities.”
“The spillover effects of drug cartel-related violence are very real and very dangerous,” she states. “Kidnappings, home invasions and high-speed chases through neighborhoods are impacting communities throughout Arizona and across the Southwest. The federal government must confront this situation swiftly, comprehensively and with every available resource.”
“These measures represent a critical step in bringing a halt to border violence,” she continued. “But make no mistake, the border and the challenges it poses are complex. We need a comprehensive, multilayered approach that strengthens border security and fixes our broken immigration system.”
What’s being done
Actions being undertaken by the government regarding U.S.-Mexico border security policy:
• Doubling the number of law enforcement personnel working in border-enforcement teams along the border.
• Strengthening Operation Armas Cruzadas to help seize arms that are going south to be used in Mexico.
• Tripling the number of Department of Homeland Security intelligence analysts located on the southwest border.
• Increasing Immigration and Custom Enforcement attaché personnel in Mexico by 50 percent.
• Increasing efforts on Operation Firewall to help interdict money laundering between the drug cartels.
• Doubling the number of agents in violent crime alien sections along the border.
• Quadrupling number of border liaison officers.
• Bolstering technology and resources with a significant increase in biometric identification deployment.
• Increasing the screening of rail that goes south from the United States into Mexico.
• Moving mobile X-ray units to the border to help identify vehicles carrying arms into Mexico.
• Moving 100 more Customs and Border Protection personnel to the border to do outbound inspections.
• Moving 12 teams of cross-trained dogs to detect both weapons and currency to the southwest border.
• Moving three mobile response teams of Border Patrol agents to deploy to the border.