Friday, April 29, 2011

Arizona Governor Signs Bill Authorizing Border Fence

Associated Press / FOX News
April 29, 2011

PHOENIX -- Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has signed a bill into law that authorizes the construction of a fence along the state's portion of the U.S.-Mexico border, either with other states or by itself.

She signed the bill Thursday, but her spokesman, Matt Benson, declined to comment Friday on why she signed it or whether she plans to invoke the authority.

The bill does not specify a cost or make an appropriation but says the state would use donations, inmate labor and private contractors.

Brewer has asked President Barack Obama to extend a National Guard deployment along the border and for more substantial fences to block smugglers. Arizona is a major gateway for illegal immigrants and marijuana smuggling.

An existing 646-mile fence covers about 30 percent of the 2,000-mile border.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Kyl, McCain, Flake float border-security bill

Associated Press
April 13, 2011

Arizona U.S. Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl have introduced legislation that would mandate 6,000 troops on the Mexican border, 5,000 more Border Patrol agents by 2016 and hundreds of millions in additional spending.

A version of the bill was also introduced in the House by Rep. Jeff Flake. It would spend $4 billion taken from previously unspent federal appropriations but spare funds given to the military and Veterans Affairs and for nuclear weapons.

The bill introduced on Wednesday would also add spending for the prosecution of illegal immigrants and boost funding to local law enforcement agencies along the border. More fencing would be built, more manned and unmanned aircraft deployed and communications equipment updated.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bigger, stronger border barrier for Nogales

Nogales International
April 15, 2011
by Jonathan Clark

The dilapidated landing-mat border fence running through central Nogales is slowly coming down.

For the past two weeks, construction crews have been building a taller, stronger and more firmly embedded barrier that by July will cover the entire 2.8 miles of terrain now fronted by the landing-mat fence.

Speaking at a media event Wednesday near the Mariposa Port of Entry, Sabri Dikman, acting patrol agent in charge at the Nogales Border Patrol Station, called the change a “great moment for the Border Patrol.”

“It’s significant for the Border Patrol and the safety level of our agents, as well as the ability for us to do our job and secure the border in Nogales,” he said.

The old barrier, which stands 8-12 feet with no below-ground footer, was the best solution available when it was constructed in 1994, Dikman said. But it’s also relatively easy to climb over and burrow under, and its solid-panel design has proven dangerous for agents who can’t see what’s on the other side.

Agents at the Nogales Station suffered 300 assaults during the fiscal year that ended last Sept. 30 – most of them rock-throwings that happened in the vicinity of the old fence, Dikman said. And Border Patrol spokesman Andy Adame said the local station has recorded at least 100 more assaults since Oct. 1, with all but one occurring in the 2.8-mile stretch through central Nogales.

The new, bollard-style fencing is higher – 18-30 feet, depending on the terrain – and is anchored in place by a concrete footer that extends up to 8 feet into the ground to thwart burrowing. And because its design involves a series of interconnected tubes, agents can now see through it to identify any dangers lurking to the south.

“You can look through and see that no one is over there, or what’s going to come at you in the next few seconds,” said Agent Eric Cantu as he pointed to a section of bollard fencing. “So it’s pretty obvious why we’re doing this.”

The concrete-filled steel tubes that comprise the fence would take at least 15 minutes to cut through, said Mike Tatusko, projective executive for Granite Construction, the Watsonville, Calif.-based contractor building the barrier. That time frame, along with the noise and sparks that a cut-through effort would create, gives the Border Patrol a good opportunity to respond.

As for climbers, a 5-foot high, south-facing metal sheet attached to the top of the fence should serve as a deterrent, Tatusko said. “Even if you shimmy up to the top 5 feet, there’s nothing to grab hold of,” he said.

The poles themselves will be topped with pyramid-shaped caps to discourage perching, he said.

Once the $11.6-million project is completed, the new fencing will connect to similar barriers built in recent years to the east and west of town to create a solid 12.5-mile fortification, Dikman said. And with better security in the central area, the Nogales Station will be able to take agents out of the downtown area and deploy them to outlying trouble spots.

“Once we have the bollard fencing up and we can actually see the south side and what’s approaching the fence, we should be able to move some of our personnel and our technology to the further, more remote areas to the east and west,” Dikman said.


The project also has its skeptics and critics. Jesus Quintanar, an engineer representing the Mexican section of the International Boundary and Water Commission, could think of little positive to say about the new fence as he observed its construction at the Mariposa site on Wednesday. “The old one was ugly, and this one isn’t pretty, either,” he said.

At least, Quintanar said, he could certify that the barrier is being built on U.S. soil, thus averting an embarrassment like one in 2007 when the U.S. accidentally constructed 1.5 miles of new border fencing in Mexican territory south of New Mexico, and then spent $3 million to fix the problem.

From an engineering perspective, Quintanar said his biggest concern is the concrete footer and the possibility that it could cause flooding during monsoon season by blocking runoff.

“We have our doubts,” he said. “According to what they’ve shown us, it complies with the specifications for the crossing of water flows. But once leaves and other things start to accumulate, that’s when the problems could start – and problems not just for Mexico, but for the United States as well.”

Tatusko said the design takes runoff into account by adding channels to the footer in areas where the fence crosses an arroyo. The channels will be covered by gates that allow normal drainage, but that can be opened in case of debris buildup and blockage.

The new fence is also troubling to Gustavo Lozano of the Nogales-based Fronteras Desiguales, a group that advocates for the rights of border residents. The project, he said, is another example of the increasingly costly, militaristic approach to border security that has done little to thwart drug trafficking or drug-related violence in Mexico. Lozano said more attention should be paid to the economic causes of border-related problems, and his group would like to see the U.S. and Mexican governments abandon their top-down approach and instead involve community organizations in creating solutions.

As for the bigger, more permanent border barrier making its way through the center of Nogales, Lozano said it would send an unfriendly message to our neighbors to the south who regularly cross legally into the U.S. for social visits or to pump much-needed revenue into the local economy.

“I think it has a clear, negative impact on people,” he said. “You know, ‘I’m building a fence between me and my neighbor and I don’t want to see his face anymore.’ That’s the message that it’s sending to regular people across the line.

“It’s a very hostile message, especially here in what we call ‘Ambos Nogales,’” he said. “We think of the two Nogaleses as very unified, as one community separated by a border. But when our government comes up with crazy and stupid ideas like a bigger fence, it’s clearly sending a message to regular people.”

The project

Two Granite Construction crews are working simultaneously on the fence: one starting at the far eastern end of town, the other on the west. As new sections go up, the old fence is taken down and the sheet metal is salvaged for scrap. In the Mariposa area, the new fence is being built approximately 50 feet south of the old one, and the landing mats aren’t dismantled until the new barrier is firmly in place in front of it.

The Border Patrol is providing security for the workers on the north side of the fence, while Mexican authorities are chipping in on the south, Dikman said.

In addition to the fence, the crews are also building a 25-foot-wide, all-weather road to give the Border Patrol better access, Tatusko said. During the height of the construction, Tatusko said he expects to have 80 workers on his team – almost all of them from the Tucson and Santa Cruz County areas.

Eventually, the east and west work crews will meet in the middle – the downtown commercial area – where construction efforts will likely become trickier, Tatusko said.

The challenges of the urban environment, he said, include working in confined areas; dealing with overhead and underground utilities; and managing vehicle and pedestrian traffic.

When the crews reach the downtown, they’ll replace both the gate at the railroad crossing and the landing-mat fence. And while messages at Wednesday’s media event were mixed as to whether the barrier between the DeConcini and Morley border crossings – the peach-toned concrete wall with see-through metal screens – would be replaced as well, Adame, the Border Patrol spokesman, said Thursday that it would be left alone.

Once the new bollard fencing replaces the landing-mat barrier elsewhere in the downtown, Dikman said, local residents may notice it has benefits in addition to improved security.

He pointed to a Cronkite News Service story in the April 8 edition of the Nogales International, in which West International Street resident Edward Holler lamented the changes that had come after the landing-mat fence went up in front of his house in the 1990s. “I couldn’t see Mexico anymore,” Holler told reporter Channing Turner. “I couldn’t hear the music as well, and I couldn’t see the parades.”

The new fence should help restore such fond sights and sounds at the same time that it’s improving visibility and safety for Border Patrol agents, Dikman said.

“It kind of adds a little transparency to the border,” he said.

Hidalgo police: Fleeing smuggler fatally crushed against border fence by own vehicle

The Monitor
April 20, 2011
by Ildefonso Ortiz

HIDALGO — A late-night chase Monday left one smuggler dead and led to the seizure of more than 600 pounds of marijuana.

The smuggler has been identified only as a 25-year-old Mexican national because authorities are working with the Mexican Consulate to identify the immediate family, Hidalgo police Capt. Roberto Vela said.

The chase began about 10:45 p.m., when an Hidalgo police officer spotted a black 1995 Chevrolet Suburban parked next to a manhole at the intersection of International Boulevard and Esperanza Avenue, Vela said.

“Information that we have received is that certain manholes are used to load narcotics,” he said referring to the drainage system network which eventually leads to the Rio Grande. “The officer made a U-turn and when he approached the vehicle, a pursuit ensued.”

The vehicle headed north along Spur 115 turning on Tejano Drive and then turned south along a small road that runs alongside the border wall.

“The driver opened the door as if to bail out of the vehicle, but then he cut through a field and drove up a steep embankment, going airborne,” Vela said.

It was unclear whether the driver had been ejected from the vehicle or he was bailing, but he ended up against the side of the SUV as it began to pass through an access gap in the border fence.

The side of the vehicle clipped one of the fence’s metal columns, crushing him in between. The SUV then continued forward about 500 feet, before a front-seat passenger jumped out and ran toward the river. He swam across to Mexico

Authorities found 16 bundles of compressed marijuana in the vehicle and then found two additional bundles while searching the area near the manhole. Authorities also reported hearing voices in the manhole, but a search of it failed to reveal additional smugglers.

Border is a clear line; 'control' is a gray area

Arizona Daily Star
April 19, 2011
by Brady McCombs

Everybody from politicians to Border Patrol officials to regular old Joes in Tucson wants the border secured.

But how we measure that is nebulous.

Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher told Congress in February that the agency's goal has been to "gain, maintain and sustain operational control."

While that term - operational control - has become a buzzword, it is not uniformly defined. And the Border Patrol has already discarded it in favor of new performance measures it is developing.

When Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Alan Bersin was asked how he defined a controlled border during a leadership vision series at the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., last October, he said this:

"Border security means public safety and the sense in the community that the border is being reasonably and effectively managed."

Arizona's longtime Republican Sen. John McCain was asked how he defined operational control during a press conference last month in Tucson.

"Implementation of Jon Kyl and I's 10-point plan," he said, touting a proposal for more Border Patrol agents, National Guard troops and several new initiatives.

So how, in lieu of a uniform measurement recognized by all, do taxpayers and legislators gauge progress on border security?

There's no clear answer.

"It's certainly legitimate to ask, 'What's the return on investment here?' " said Doris Meissner, commissioner of the now-defunct Immigration and Naturalization Service from 1993 to 2000 and senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington-based think tank that advocates for comprehensive immigration changes.

The federal government has invested $15.8 billion since 2005 on border security between the ports of entry, shows budget information from the Department of Homeland Security. Another $12.4 billion has been spent on border security and trade inspection at the ports.

Indicators suggest that the additional agents, fences and technology funded by that money have made the border more secure, said Rich Stana, director of homeland security issues at the Government Accountability Office.

"But that said, there is still a ways to go," Stana said. "One of the key elements in improving border security is having a reliable measure of how you assess that."

The question of how the government measures border security has garnered more attention in recent months, highlighted by a hearing of a House committee on Homeland Security and a Government Accountability Office report.

After 15 years of unprecedented spending on border security, and in tight budget times, Congress needs to know what works and what doesn't, Meissner said.

"It's been an article of faith that we need border enforcement and we need more of it, and certainly that's valid," Meissner said. "But I don't think we've gotten to the point before where one could actually say, 'Well, how much is enough?'"

"Operational control"

In the Secure Fence Act of 2006, Congress defined operational control as preventing "all unlawful entries" into the United States.

But Congress' definition has not been consistent in bills, reports and correspondence since that act, the Border Patrol said in an emailed statement.

In recent congressional testimony, Border Patrol Chief Fisher said the term refers to the agency's ability "to detect, identify, classify, respond to and ultimately resolve all threats within the theater of operation."

Using that definition, 44 percent of the nearly 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border is under operational control, shows a February GAO report. Nearly 70 percent of the 262 miles in Border Patrol's Tucson Sector fit that category.

The definition in the Secure Fence Act is an unrealistic standard to which no other law enforcement agency is held, said Stana and Meissner.

"It would be very expensive to create that kind of assurance," Stana said. "You would be talking about something akin to the inner German border during the Cold War, where very few, if any, could penetrate it without fear of losing one's life."

The Border Patrol should be asked to manage the border, not prevent every illegal entry, Meissner said.

No matter how you define it, Fisher, Bersin and their boss, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, insist that operational control should not gauge overall border security.

Fisher said, "Operation control is not, in and of itself, a measure of border security."

"Achieving border security requires a whole-government approach," the Border Patrol statement said, "whereas the Border Patrol's 'operational control' is a narrow tactical term confined to Border Patrol capabilities in a particular area of the border."

And now the Border Patrol is replacing the outdated measure with metrics that more accurately reflect the state of border security.

"It's not necessarily coming up with new metrics as it is about understanding how those metrics apply in today's border environment," Fisher said.

The agency expects the new approach to be more cost-effective, the GAO reported, which is a great sign, said Tom Barry, senior analyst at the Center for International Policy in Washington.

"They are aware their budget will be more closely scrutinized than before," Barry said. "Part of this analysis has to be a cost-benefit evaluation, not just a numbers game. Are these billions worth it?"

The Border Patrol plans to test the new measures in fiscal 2012, which begins on Oct. 1, 2011.

stats can mislead

In the meantime, the Border Patrol is focusing on apprehensions to measure progress.

Napolitano and Bersin often cite a 60 percent reduction in apprehensions in the past six years as one sign the border is more secure.

The reduction, since it's coincided with the buildup of agents, is a valid measure of effectiveness, Meissner said.

But it shouldn't be used as the primary method for judging border security because the stat is insufficient and can be misleading, she said.

The same person can be counted multiple times, meaning the yearly total represents the number of arrests - not the number of people caught. And a dip in apprehensions might reflect fewer jobs available due to the economic downturn.

Using apprehensions as a measure of the Border Patrol's efficiency would be akin to judging a baseball player by his hits without knowing how many times he's been at bat, said Stana of the GAO.

"You have the number of apprehensions but you don't know how many people might have been there to apprehend," Stana said. "You have to have the numerator and the denominator to judge performance."

New measure coming

In the last decade, the government has vacillated on what it's trying to accomplish with its border security strategy, said Barry of the Center for International Policy.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the focus was keeping out terrorists. By 2005, it shifted to illegal immigration. In recent years, with the flow of illegal immigrants slowing, border security has become synonymous with preventing spillover violence from Mexico's raging drug war, Barry said.

In January during a speech in El Paso, Napolitano said, "Our goal is to have a safe, secure border zone that is also hospitable to and fosters legal trade, travel and immigration. Our goal recognizes that the border is not simply a line on a map. It is an entire area, extending into both countries. Moreover, a safe, secure border zone requires vigorous enforcement of our nation's immigration laws in the interior of our country as well."

As it creates standards to measure progress, the Border Patrol must define what it aims to accomplish, Stana said. "If there is difficulty getting to performance measures, it may be rooted in the fact that we're not clearly articulating exactly what it is we want to do," he said.

For instance, if the agency's goal is to stop illegal entries close to the border, it could use the GPS coordinates recorded with each apprehension to measure how many were made within five miles of the border, Stana said.

The Border Patrol also could use more in-depth analysis of fingerprints.

Agents should be able to determine how many times a person has been caught, where he's been caught before, and if he or she was voluntarily returned or formally deported, Stana said.

"Is it the same individual trying five times or is it five individuals?" Stana asked.

The agency should seek outside consultation from analysts and academics on how best to establish new performance measures, Meissner said. Not only would it help make the measures stronger, it would give the agency credibility with legislators and the public.

"If it's viewed as purely an inside, opaque exercise," she said, "it won't have the same kind of influence."

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Anti-Immigration Crusader

New York Times
April 17, 2011
by Jason DeParle

WASHINGTON — Three decades ago, a middle-aged doctor sat outside his northern Michigan home and saw a patch of endangered paradise.

A beekeeper and amateur naturalist of prodigious energy, John Tanton had spent two decades planting trees, cleaning creeks and suing developers, but population growth put ever more pressure on the land. Though fertility rates had fallen, he saw a new threat emerging: soaring rates of immigration.

Time and again, Dr. Tanton urged liberal colleagues in groups like Planned Parenthood and the Sierra Club to seek immigration restraints, only to meet blank looks and awkward silences.

“I finally concluded that if anything was going to happen, I would have to do it myself,” he said.

Improbably, he did. From the resort town of Petoskey, Mich., Dr. Tanton helped start all three major national groups fighting to reduce immigration, legal and illegal, and molded one of the most powerful grass-roots forces in politics. The immigration-control movement surged to new influence in last fall’s elections and now holds near veto power over efforts to legalize any of the 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States.

One group that Dr. Tanton nurtured, Numbers USA, doomed President George W. Bush’s legalization plan four years ago by overwhelming Congress with protest calls. Another, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR, helped draft the Arizona law last year to give the police new power to identify and detain illegal immigrants.

A third organization, the Center for Immigration Studies, joined the others in December in defeating the Dream Act, which sought to legalize some people brought to the United States illegally as children.

Rarely has one person done so much to structure a major cause, or done it so far from the public eye. Dr. Tanton has raised millions of dollars, groomed protégés and bequeathed institutions, all while running an ophthalmology practice nearly 800 miles from Capitol Hill.

“He is the most influential unknown man in America,” said Linda Chavez, a former aide to President Ronald Reagan who once led a Tanton group that promoted English-only laws.

While Dr. Tanton’s influence has been extraordinary, so has his evolution — from apostle of centrist restraint to ally of angry populists and a man who increasingly saw immigration through a racial lens.

Mindful that the early-20th-century fight to reduce immigration had been marred by bigotry, Dr. Tanton initially emphasized FAIR’s identity as a “centrist group” and made arguments aimed at liberals and minorities. He allowed few local FAIR chapters, warning that a stray demagogue might “go off half-cocked and spoil the whole effort.”

When a member of FAIR wrote that Hispanic immigrants should be shot — because they “multiply like a bunch of rats” — a staff member offered to refund his dues. Early supporters included Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota and Warren E. Buffett.

Now FAIR’s signature event is an annual gathering of talk radio hosts, where earnest policy pitches share time with the kind of battle cries Dr. Tanton once feared. This year’s event mixed discussion of job losses among minorities with calls to use Tomahawk missiles on Tijuana drug lords, while a doubter of President Obama’s birth certificate referred to “the undocumented worker” in the White House. Leading allies include Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, whose sweeps of Latino neighborhoods around Phoenix have prompted a federal investigation.

While the whole movement grew more vehement as illegal immigration increased, Dr. Tanton seemed especially open to provocative allies and ideas. He set off a storm of protests two decades ago with a memorandum filled with dark warnings about the “Latin onslaught.” Word soon followed that FAIR was taking money from the Pioneer Fund, a foundation that promoted theories of the genetic superiority of whites.

Dr. Tanton, who remains on the FAIR board, denied charges of racial bias and donated his papers to the University of Michigan to show that he and colleagues “are not the unsavory types sometimes alleged.” They include hundreds of private letters, some outlining his interest in genetic differences between the races and concerns about the country’s changing ethnic mix.

Reeling from their recent defeats, supporters of immigrant rights are mining those files as part of a fierce — critics say unfair — campaign to label him a racist and discredit his broader cause. Some have gone as far as calling FAIR a “hate group.”

But accusations of bigotry could alienate moderates the immigrant rights groups need. Allies of Dr. Tanton say their accusers are discrediting themselves with a guilt-by-association campaign that twists his ideas and projects them onto groups where, they say, his influence long ago waned. Still, few of those allies are willing to defend all the views he expresses in his files.

Dr. Tanton, 77, declined interview requests, citing problems from Parkinson’s disease. That leaves his files to speak for themselves. Is he an embodiment of his powerful movement or an embarrassment to it?

A Pledge of Centrism

Petoskey, population 6,000, hugs Lake Michigan in a forested area known for sailboats and summer homes. Dr. Tanton has spent most of his adult life there, chopping wood, keeping bees and growing kale. Even as late as 2000, the surrounding county was 94 percent white.

Regretting what he saw as the limits of his rural education, Dr. Tanton compensated with autodidactic zest. He started a Great Books Club, read up on macroeconomics and polished his foreign language skills by subscribing to a German newspaper. The results included a wide-ranging mind and at times a tone deafness. He is a former farm boy who calls colleagues “chaps.”

Dr. Tanton founded local chapters of Planned Parenthood and the Sierra Club and became the national president of Zero Population Growth. Unable to interest colleagues in fighting immigration, he formed FAIR in 1979, pledging in his proposal to make it “centrist/liberal in political orientation.” The first director, Roger Conner, had made his mark as a liberal environmental advocate.

Otis L. Graham Jr., a founding board member, wrote, “A leading concern for me is to bring into FAIR strong representation from people in groups of liberal, progressive disposition.”

Then, as today, there were serious liberal arguments for lower immigration. FAIR hoped to enlist unions concerned about wage erosion, environmentalists concerned about pollution and sprawl, and blacks concerned about competition for housing, jobs and schools.

A few prominent Democrats lent support, including Senator McCarthy. But most liberal groups saw immigrants, even illegal ones, as minorities to be protected, rather than economic rivals. Unions saw potential members; Democrats saw voters.

“We didn’t convince anybody,” Mr. Graham said in an interview.

Worried that it was losing the war of ideas, FAIR in 1985 spun off a free-standing research group, the Center for Immigration Studies, intended “to make the restriction of immigration a legitimate position for thinking people,” as Dr. Tanton put it.

The next year FAIR faced a defining fight over the first major immigration bill in more than 20 years. It created penalties for employers who hired illegal workers but legalized several million people already here. With FAIR sharply split, Dr. Tanton pushed it to support the compromise, but the penalties proved ineffective and the amnesty was marred by fraud.

No one at FAIR would think of compromising on legalization again.

Challenging Taboos

FAIR was founded on complaints about the immigrants’ numbers, not their culture. But Dr. Tanton feared that they were failing to assimilate. He formed a new group, U.S. English, to oppose bilingual education and demand that government agencies use English alone. By 1988, Dr. Tanton had a high-profile director in Ms. Chavez and ballot measures pending in three states.

Then The Arizona Republic revealed the contents of a memorandum he had sent to friends before a brainstorming session. “Will Latin-American migrants bring with them the tradition of the mordida (bribe)?” he asked. “As whites see their power and control over their lives declining, will they simply go quietly into the night? Or will there be an explosion?”

Latino fertility rates caused him special alarm: “those with their pants up are going to get caught by those with their pants down!”

Soon followed the news that FAIR had received grants from the Pioneer Fund, whose most famous grantee was William B. Shockley, the Nobel-winning physicist who argued that for genetic reasons, blacks are intellectually inferior to whites.

Ms. Chavez resigned, Mr. Buffett stopped supporting FAIR, and any hope of significant liberal support vanished.

Some colleagues never forgave him.

“The fear was that one ugly person could tar the larger movement, and sadly, ironically, it turned out that person was John Tanton,” said Patrick Burns, who was then FAIR’s deputy director.

But if anything, Dr. Tanton grew more emboldened to challenge taboos. He increasingly made his case against immigration in racial terms.

“One of my prime concerns,” he wrote to a large donor, “is about the decline of folks who look like you and me.” He warned a friend that “for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that.”

Dr. Tanton acknowledged the shift from his earlier, colorblind arguments, but the “uncomfortable truth,” he wrote, was that those arguments had failed. With a million or more immigrants coming each year — perhaps a third illegally — he warned, “The end may be nearer than we think.”

He corresponded with Sam G. Dickson, a Georgia lawyer for the Ku Klux Klan, who sits on the board of The Barnes Review, a magazine that, among other things, questions “the so-called Holocaust.” Dr. Tanton promoted the work of Jared Taylor, whose magazine, American Renaissance, warned: “America is an increasingly dangerous and disagreeable place because of growing numbers of blacks and Hispanics.” (To Mr. Taylor, Dr. Tanton wrote, “You are saying a lot of things that need to be said.”)

Beyond immigration, he revived an old interest in eugenics, another field trailed by a history of racial and class prejudice.

“Do we leave it to individuals to decide that they are the intelligent ones who should have more kids?” he wrote. “And more troublesome, what about the less intelligent, who logically should have less. Who is going to break the bad news to them?”

Still, few friends confronted him.

“My biggest regret is I looked at what he was doing, rolled my eyes and said, ‘That’s John,’ ” said Mr. Conner, the first FAIR director, who praised Dr. Tanton’s great “decency and his generosity on a personal level” and his selfless devotion to his cause. Those qualities are “so profound that the people around him disregarded things that we should have called him on,” he added.

Power in the Ballot

Dr. Tanton argued that the public was incensed by illegal immigration, but that elites ignored “hoi polloi,” who bore such costs as rising crime and overcrowded schools.

FAIR first glimpsed the power of populist action with the passage of Proposition 187, the 1994 ballot initiative in California barring illegal residents from virtually all social services. But victories came slower on Capitol Hill, where immigrant groups stood with business lobbies eager for foreign labor. The anger that shook California was slow to make the Capitol switchboard buzz.

The man who most changed that was Roy Beck, who spent several years as Washington editor of The Social Contract, Dr. Tanton’s journal. Mr. Beck formed Numbers USA in 1997 to help pipe the growing populist anger into Congressional offices. Dr. Tanton helped him raise money and housed the group for four years under his umbrella organization, U.S. Inc.

Mr. Beck mobilized a database of supporters with what was then a novel technology, the Internet fax. Prompted by a well-timed alert, his followers could register outrage with a few mouse clicks — or call. They did, in attention-grabbing numbers.

A folksy entrant to a fiery debate, Mr. Beck appeared to share little with the white nationalist element in Dr. Tanton’s broad circle. He calls himself a racial liberal and argues that lower immigration would raise the wages of native-born blacks. He put a picture of Barbara Jordan, a black civil rights leader and politician he considered an ally, on the Numbers USA Web site.

Yet at The Social Contract, he was part of a journal that often criticized immigration on racial grounds, and Dr. Tanton once dubbed Mr. Beck his “heir apparent.”

“He’s just like any friend — there are lots of issues I don’t agree with him on,” Mr. Beck said.

Numbers USA showed its force in 2002 when Republican leaders of the House backed a bill that would have allowed some illegal immigrants to remain in the United States while seeking legal status. Numbers USA set the phones on fire, and a majority of Republicans opposed it.

“I had people come up to me on the floor of the House saying, ‘O.K., O.K., call off the dogs’ — meaning Numbers USA,” said former Representative Tom Tancredo, a Colorado Republican who fought the bill.

The big war broke out in 2007, after Mr. Bush proposed a systemic overhaul including a path to citizenship for most illegal immigrants. Supporters said it would free millions of people from fear and exploitation; opponents argued that it would reward lawbreakers and encourage more illegal immigration.

FAIR rallied talk show hosts. The Center for Immigration Studies churned out studies of the bill’s perceived flaws. Numbers USA jammed the Capitol’s phones.

Their success became the stuff of lore. They “lit up the switchboard for weeks,” said Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, explaining his decision to oppose the bill. “And to every one of them, I say today: ‘Your voice was heard.’ ”

Becoming a Target

For supporters of granting legal status, the vote was a total rout. “Let’s face it, they kicked our butt,” said Frank Sharry, who led a business-immigrant group for the bill. A new network formed of loosely affiliated liberal groups with a more confrontational bent. It seized on two words: John Tanton.

In December 2007, the Southern Poverty Law Center dubbed FAIR a “hate group.” In Chicago, the Center for New Community tracked “Tanton’s empire of fear and prejudice.”

Mr. Sharry’s new group, America’s Voice, placed newspaper advertisements warning Congress not to meet “with extremist groups like FAIR.” Its online video combines pictures of Dr. Tanton and Mr. Beck with images of Klan members and Nazis.

Mr. Sharry acknowledges that he used to warn colleagues that charges of racism would backfire. But he said the 2007 debate convinced him of his opponents’ ill will. “I’ve gone from saying they’re part of the process to seeing them as extremists who want to expel millions of people,” he said. While they started with a liberal gloss, “their juice became culturally conservative Republicans who don’t like brown people.”

Despite such attacks, the groups remain influential. Georgia legislators passed a bill last week much like the Arizona measure that FAIR helped draft. Its main sponsor, State Representative Matt Ramsey, a Republican, asked FAIR to review an early draft and credited Numbers USA with helping to mobilize local supporters.

“That grass-roots program they have is incredibly effective,” he said.

Dan Stein, the president of FAIR, said opponents were suddenly focusing on Dr. Tanton — now in his 32nd year on the board — to silence a policy debate they had lost.

“Is FAIR responsible for everything he said in his private correspondence? No,” he said. “I love John, but he’s had no significant control over FAIR for years.” Citing antidiscrimination language on FAIR’s Web site, he added, “We’ve always said you should not discriminate on the basis of race.”

Mr. Beck said the charges of bigotry were especially unfair and let a reporter hear a tape of his 1970 wedding ceremony, which included a song he wrote pledging to fight “race hate.” He deliberately lives in integrated neighborhoods, he said, and sent his children to integrated schools, including one in a mostly black housing project.

“What kind of racist does that?” he said. “They’ve never accused us of doing anything that’s racist or white nationalist. It’s only that Numbers U.S.A. ‘has ties’ ” to Dr. Tanton.

He added: “Even if there were some mild strain of white nationalism in John, the fact is that the results of everything he is pushing in immigration policy would disproportionately help black and Hispanic Americans.”

The Center for Immigration Studies, where Dr. Tanton played a lesser role, has come closest to criticizing him, writing last year that he had a “tin ear for the sensitivities of immigration.” (A blogger then attacked the center as undermining “the patriotic struggle.”)

Mr. Sharry said the groups’ reluctance to criticize Dr. Tanton showed tacit agreement. But Mr. Conner, the former FAIR director, called it politeness toward a beleaguered friend. “It’s been perfectly clear that people have not been willing to defend John,” he said.

Mr. Burns, his former FAIR colleague, said the groups’ silence was harming an honorable cause. “The immigration reform movement has to say what it is and what it’s not, and it has to say it’s not John Tanton,” he said.

Undocumented immigrant deaths hit lowest level in six years in Rio Grande Valley

The Monitor
April 16, 2011
by Jared Taylor

McALLEN — The number of Mexican and unidentified undocumented immigrants who died while passing through the Rio Grande Valley has dropped to its lowest level in six years.

But those who track immigration patterns say they cannot identify any clear reasons why the deaths have dropped so low.

The Mexican consulate in McAllen recorded 20 deaths of undocumented immigrants in 2010 — a more than 60 percent drop from the record high seen in 2009.

The Brownsville office of the Mexican consulate also saw a drop — seven deaths, down 36 percent from 2009. The Monitor obtained the statistics through a public information request with the Mexican Secretary of External Relations.

The deaths compare with only slight changes in the number of apprehensions of illegal immigrants in roughly the same time span.

U.S. Border Patrol figures show 59,766 immigrants detained in the 2010 fiscal year — just a 2 percent drop from the same period a year before.

Across the Rio Grande Valley sector — stretching from Starr County to the Gulf of Mexico and north to near Corpus Christi — agents responded to 28 immigrant deaths last year, a 61 percent drop.

Immigrant apprehensions have dropped in the Rio Grande Valley, down 55 percent since the 2005 fiscal year, which saw the highest total since 2000.

The Mexican consulate in McAllen has recorded no illegal immigrant deaths this year. One was recorded at the agency’s Brownsville office.

José Manuel Gutierrez Minera, a spokesman at the Mexican consulate in McAllen, said the improving economy in Mexico and slow job growth in the U.S. may have contributed to the lower number of deaths. And the push to build awareness of the dangers of crossing may have contributed, he said.

But “the central point is we’re not sure exactly of why, but we are very content about it,” Gutierrez said. “There’s no reason exactly.”

Among the Mexican consulate’s 13 offices along the Southwest border that track immigrant deaths, only two — in Del Rio and Tucson, Ariz. — saw an increase last year. Tucson routinely records the most deaths, but last year’s 214 fatalities was the most in six years and up 60 percent from 2009, the Mexican consulate figures show.

Overall, the six Mexican consulates in Texas recorded 69 deaths among immigrants in 2010 — down 53 percent from the year before and the least since 2004, the first year numbers were made available.

Border Patrol installed rescue beacons along commonly used immigrant paths that follow utility lines in rural ranchlands across Brooks County in 2009. The agency also has worked with the Mexican consulate to step up its presence on Spanish-language television and radio stations warning of the dangers of illegal crossings.

Those efforts may have pushed some people to second guess the treacherous trek across the rough terrain of the monte, said Rosalinda Huey, local Border Patrol spokeswoman. But to point directly to that would be speculation, she said.

“That could be a reason, but I can’t speculate and say that’s why” there were fewer deaths, Huey said.


And while the numbers of migrants killed in the U.S. may have dropped, stories of mass graves — many filled with migrants who refused to join drug smugglers — has dominated media coverage in Mexico.

Two large so-called narcofosas have been uncovered on ranches near San Fernando, Tamps., about 80 miles south of Brownsville.

Seventy-two migrants were found shot and buried on a ranch in August 2010. And the death toll has steadily climbed at another series of graves first exposed April 6. As of Friday, 145 bodies had been recovered from those.

Whether that has contributed to the drop in dead immigrants found in the Rio Grande Valley remains to be seen.

Juanita Valdez-Cox, executive director of San Juan-based immigrant advocate La Union del Pueblo Entero, said she has heard more testimonials of Mexicans immigrating without documents to escape the violence.

Also possible, she reckoned, is fewer Central American immigrants unwilling to cross through Mexico after hearing widespread stories of kidnapping and abuse.

“You hear about all the violence in Mexico and the killings of immigrants,” Valdez-Cox said. “Maybe they are not coming because of that, too, that they’re afraid that once they get into Mexico from further south that they couldn’t get across from all the violence.

“If they want to cross, it’s more expensive and they hear it’s more dangerous. But they can still get across.”

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Truck ramp shows ingenuity of drug smugglers: police official

Yuma Sun
April 16, 2011
by Cesar Neyoy

SAN LUIS RIO COLORADO, Son. — The recent use of a large folding ramp to allow drug-carrying vehicles to leapfrog the border fence goes to show the ingenuity of the smugglers, says a Mexican police chief in this city.

And Federal Preventative Police Commander Gaston Loaiza says drug traffickers will only get more sophisticated and ingenious in their methods of moving their product into the United States and on to users.

His comments came days after Border Patrol agents on patrol in the Barry M. Goldwater Range east of Yuma discovered the folding ramp extending over the border fence from a large truck parked on the Mexican side. Agents found the ramp while chasing a Jeep Cherokee that apparently had just used the ramp to carry across 1,000 pounds of marijuana.

“We believe that the ramp could have been used previously,” Loiza said, “but it is a sign that there is a lot of drug smuggling activity in that area.”

The area is so heavily used by traffickers, he added, that the day after the discovery, Mexican federal police officers arrested two people as they were preparing to cross on foot in same location with a total of 20 kilos of marijuana strapped to their backs.

The fence is part of the U.S. government's efforts over the past decade to fortify the border against alien and drug smuggling through the use of added barriers and surveillance technology and more agents.

But Loaiza said the ramp is proof traffickers will not be stopped by the fence and will always seek ways to carry contraband across the border.

“We have that area heavily guarded, but now it will be more so. We have to be even more coordinated with law enforcement agencies of the United States.”

But he said San Luis Rio Colorado, Son., has managed to avoid the drug-related violence that has plagued other Mexican border cities, such as Ciudad Juarez, across from El Paso, Texas, and Nuevo Laredo, across from Laredo, Texas.

“In other parts, they are in a real war,” he said, “but here everything is peaceful.”

Nonetheless, the Mexican army has and will continue to maintain highway checkpoints around San Luis Rio Colorado in efforts to prevent violence from spreading to the area, said Boanerges Medel, commander of the army regiment based in San Luis.

Sometimes-lengthy waits by motorists at the checkpoints recently prompted complaints by Nahun Rodriguez, a chamber of commerce official in San Luis Rio Colorado.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Chaffetz shows headless body image in hearing

Salt Lake Tribune
April 15, 2011
by Thomas Burr

Washington • An angry Rep. Jason Chaffetz showed images of a headless human body, various severed human appendages and decapitated heads tacked to a fence during a congressional hearing Friday to illustrate the crisis he says exists along the U.S.-Mexico border abutting federal lands.

The Utah Republican, in a hearing looking at whether environmental laws and wilderness protections are hindering the border patrol’s ability to secure the international line, was visibly disturbed when a border patrol official said the agency was having “great success” in a section of the Arizona border.

“How can you say that?” Chaffetz said and minutes later warned the audience and online viewers that he didn’t plan to show the images but felt it was needed to counter the official’s comment. Only later did he acknowledge the photos were taken inside Mexico.

Chaffetz, chairman of an Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee, held a joint hearing Friday morning with Rep. Rob Bishop, his Utah colleague who chairs a subcommittee over national parks, forests and public lands, questioning whether federal land managers are hindering border security from securing the international line.

Bishop has introduced legislation to allow the border patrol to enter sensitive wilderness areas as part of its mission to apprehend border crossers.

Bishop, too, became animated during the hearing.

“A sovereign country has to control its sovereign lands,” Bishop said, noting that a good percentage of public lands has been marked as dangerous to enter because of the porous border. “It is still unsafe for Americans to go into [parts of] America and that is reprehensible. … To borrow a phrase from Bill Clinton, it’s national security, stupid.”

Ronald Vitiello, deputy chief of the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, testified before the joint hearing that collaboration between his agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which manages national forests, and the Interior Department has worked well and they’ve all made great strides in ensuring border patrol agents have the access they need.

“We’re having great success in the Tucson sector,” Vitiello said.

The comment enraged Chaffetz, prompting him to show the graphic images on two large televisions in the hearing room.

Rep. John Tierney, D-Mass., interrupted Chaffetz to ask if he expected the border patrol to also enforce laws in Mexico, where the pictures were taken.

The Mexican side of the international line has seen bloody clashes between drug cartels, with tens of thousands of people reportedly killed; there have not, however, been substantiated reports of similar deaths on the U.S. side.

Chaffetz waived off Tierney’s point and continued to complain that protection of endangered species is trumping protecting the border.

“I have a serious problem where we are prioritizing the Desert Chub Fish over national security,” Chaffetz said.

Pressed later on why he used images from Mexico to highlight a concern on U.S. soil, Chaffetz said he was given the images from a Texas sheriff and he wanted to note the violence that he says is headed north.

Officials from all three federal departments stressed that cooperation between their agencies is working and that a 2006 agreement to work together on the border — a deal that allows border patrol to access any sensitive areas under urgent circumstances — is still a workable solution.

Tierney, the ranking Democratic member on the Oversight subcommittee, pointed to a Government Accountability Office report that found that 14 out of 17 border patrol sector chiefs said environmental laws were not a hindrance to doing their jobs.

“There are many real challenges in securing our border but by all accounts, environmental restrictions are not one of them,” Tierney said.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bishop bill seeks to waive environmental rules for border patrol

Salt Lake Tribune
April 14, 2011
by Thomas Burr

Washington • Border patrol agents would be able to cross into sensitive wilderness areas, build and maintain roads, construct fences and patrol the areas with vehicles without fear of breaking environmental laws under a bill introduced this week again by Rep. Rob Bishop.

The Utah Republican, chairman of the House Natural Resources subcommittee over federal lands, says his bill will allow border agents to secure the border without what he says are barriers — literally physical barriers in some cases — put up by public land managers.

Bishop, who toured the border in Arizona last year and plans to go next week as well, is holding a joint hearing Friday with the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, to look at border security along the U.S.-Mexico line.

He says federal lands along the U.S. border are a “haven of criminal activity” and environmental laws meant to protect the lands are actually allowing border crossers to destroy them.

“I have seen firsthand the damage that has been done to our federal lands from trash, foot traffic and man-made fires,” Bishop said in reintroducing the bill he proposed last session. “Providing Border Patrol with the necessary access to deter and apprehend those who cross through our federal lands illegally would deliver the greatest benefit to both national security and the long-term health of our federal lands.”

Matthew Chandler, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, under which border patrol operates, said the department doesn’t comment on pending legislation. But he noted that DHS is fully committed to cooperating with Interior and the Forest Service, which also has lands abutting the international border.

Interior spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff also declined to comment on pending legislation but noted that the department’s work with Homeland Security has allowed basic border security infrastructure to be strategically located on federal lands to meet DHS’ goals.

Interior, Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Agriculture entered into an agreement in 2006 that allows border patrol to enter sensitive wilderness areas in pursuit of criminal activity, though Bishop has contended the deal still hampers the ability to secure the border.

Park redesign could relieve tensions at US-Mexico border

April 14, 2011
by Beth Elderkin

A possible redesign of Friendship Park, a small patch of land separated by two eight-foot high black metal fences on the national border between San Diego, Calif. and Tijuana, Mexico, has become the center of a heated international debate.

Dedicated in 1971 to bi-national unity between the United States and Mexico by former first lady Pat Nixon, the small section of protected Border Field State Park is officially referred to as Friendship Circle, but more commonly known as Friendship Park.The area has sparked tense cross-border conflicts between groups who wish to open the park for full bi-national access, and U.S. Border patrol, which prioritizes national security.

Over the past five years, increased security by the United States Border Patrol has restricted park access to U.S. residents and limited cross-cultural contact.

But after years of cross-cultural tension, a compromise on a redesign of the park appears to be within reach. In February, Border Patrol agreed to consider a design that would create more open spaces, but still serve security needs.

"(The redesign) doesn't make the park feel like you're walking into a prison," said Jill Holslin, a member of Friends of Friendship Park, one of the groups advocating more open space.

Friendship Park was once a frequently-visited spot by people living in the U.S. who wanted to communicate with friends and family in Mexico. People gathered on both sides of the fence to share picnics, sometimes even “sneaking tamales across the fence,” Holslin said.

A 1994 measure limited access to the border fence, but it wasn't until 2006 that Friendship Park was severely impacted. That's when Pres. George W. Bush approved the Secure Fence Act, which increased border security and initialized the construction of a secondary fence. That fence, completed in 2009, was built about 100 feet away from the original border fence, creating a buffer space that prohibits cross-border access from Friendship Park, which lies between the two fences.

“[Before], it was minimal problems or obstacles as far as border patrol or access to the area,” said Daniel Watman of Border Encuentro, which is fighting for increased park access. “When they started bringing in the secondary wall, that’s when it created quite an obstacle for us.”

Ever since the secondary fence was completed, access to the main park area is only allowed on the weekends between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and only 25 to 30 people are allowed inside at a time, for a maximum of 30 minutes. Friendship Park is reachable through Border Field State Park by car, or via a 40-minute walk along Imperial Beach.

Physical contact is prohibited and border patrol officers have the option to restrain suspicious people within 100 feet of the fence. Border patrol agent Ronnie Harden said the primary reason is to prevent items from being passed through the slats and over the fence.

“It’s so easy for them to pass things that are contraband or things that can be used on either side, like illegal documents,” he said.

Park access advocacy groups, including Friends of Friendship Park, No Border Wall and Border Encuentro, are working for increased access to the park, particularly for people who want to communicate with family and friends on the other side of the border fence.

According to Border Patrol Public Affairs Office supervisor Steven Pitts, the park redesign, if approved, could begin construction as early as June, and would take approximately three to six months to complete.

The changes to Friendship Park could include an area around the boundary that could expand to up to 60 feet, depending on the size of the crowd at any given event, Watman said.

The idea of this is “to open up the entrance to this kind of no-man’s land between the two lands,” said Public Art and Architecture architect and Friendship Park designer James Brown.

U.S. visitors would be able to walk right up to the fence and interact with those on the other side. This would be made possible through a metal reinforced mesh fence. The mesh would be tight enough to make physical contact impossible, said Border Patrol Public Affairs Office representative Justin De La Torre.

Harden, who works the midnight to 8 a.m. shift, said the secondary fence and added border security is necessary to the safety of the U.S. national border; especially late at night when illegal border crossings are more likely to occur.

“People who cross at this time of night aren’t trying to see their families. They’re trying to get somewhere,” he said.

Holslin agrees that cross-border security is important in maintaining order along the border:

“We are not working against the Border Patrol," she said. "We want to work with them"

Holslin said increasing park access could actually help improve security along the border, since a higher number of visitors would prevent drug cartels from overtaking the area and increasing crime.

Watman said a redesigned Friendship Park is a way to not only maintain a safe environment, but do so in a way that symbolizes the bi-national friendship former first lady Nixon celebrated 40 years ago.

“I don’t feel like it’s enforcement versus friendship. I believe they both can be present,” he said. “They kind of both need to be present.”

Friday, April 8, 2011

Read County Judge Escobar's testimony at Senate committee hearing on border security

El Paso Times
April 7, 2011

Below is a prepared statement of County Judge Veronica Escobar's testimony before the United States Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs:
I have the honor of being the County Judge for El Paso, Texas, the greatest community in the U.S. In Texas, the County Judge is the Chief Executive of the County. In this administrative capacity, I preside over a five-member commissioners court, which has budgetary and administrative authority over county government operations. The County Judge is elected county-wide. That means, as of the 2010 Census, I represent 800,000 people in the world's largest bi-national metropolitan community.

El Paso also happens to be the safest city of our size in America, and we've consistently been ranked among the top three safest communities for well over a decade. Not only do we have some of the lowest crime rates in the nation, but a recent poll of our citizens shows that we know we are safe and we feel safe.

I appreciate the opportunity to share the border experience with all of you. It's sometimes frustrating when policies created and laws passed in D.C. do not address the realities that border residents live.

Residents who live on the U.S.-Mexico Border have seen their communities used as a convenient backdrop to heated debates and political posturing about immigration and drug policies. Incredibly, it's been said by some elected officials-two from our own state-that there are bombs going off in the streets of El Paso. That is absolutely untrue. As a border community, we have challenges, no doubt, but exploding bombs are not among them.
What happens when the rhetoric escalates and the facts get lost? It hurts my local economy; it hurts our ability to recruit talent; it negatively affects our convention business; and it doesn't solve the real problems.

We are all concerned about and devastated by the tragedies occurring every day on the other side of our river - the drug war raging on the streets of Ciudad Juárez. I am glad for the assistance being given Mexico, and I hope there is more to come, including discussions about our own contributions to the drug war that is devastating Juárez and El Paso families. In the mean time illegal drugs continue to flow north to feed Americans' insatiable appetite for them; U.S. guns used in that bloodshed continue to move south; and El Paso, like other border cities, is a corridor caught in the middle of that north/south activity as well as the rhetoric that emanates from our state's and nation's capitols.

My local law enforcement agents are dealing with transnational gang activity; my jail houses them; our prosecutors are pursuing charges against them in court; and my local property tax base is shouldering much of that burden.

The federal government has been aware of the costs associated with the challenges we face on the border and the burden carried by local property taxpayers; your financial assistance is very much appreciated, especially through the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) and High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) funds. However, according to the El Paso County Sheriff's Office, HIDTA funds have remained relatively stable since the program's inception over 10 years ago. Meanwhile, salaries, benefits and equipment costs have all increased over time; we either have to scale back operations or fund increases on the backs of local property taxpayers. SCAAP funds are also very much appreciated but only cover a small portion (10-15%) of the costs of housing these offenders. And, unfortunately, in the 2012 budget, SCAAP funds are being reduced by 60%, which would mean yet another increased burden on my residents.

Federal grants offer a supplement that we appreciate, but they can be inflexible. For example, the 2010 Operation Stonegarden grant did not allow us to purchase vehicles, which we badly needed. That significantly diminishes our capacity to effectively patrol the County of El Paso, which consists of over 1,060 square miles, 47 miles of which are adjacent to our international border.

We need help with investments that supplement our ability to recruit and hire more officers. The COPS grants have poured money into Texas but the El Paso County Sheriff's Office has been passed over for two years. The El Paso Police Department likewise has been ignored. Meanwhile cities like San Antonio, Dallas, Houston, and Austin have received funding for as many as 50 new officers. These are not border cities. Let me repeat: These are not border cities. My Sheriff's office needs "boots on the ground." While receiving funding for overtime is helpful, our officers are getting burned out.

We are concerned that with the talk of slashing budgets and cutting support to our communities, we will erode the gains we have made in getting the federal government to assist us as we assist you.

When the war between cartels began to reach a critical level in Ciudad Juárez, we saw a pattern emerge that we never predicted and hasn't stopped. Our county hospital district, which houses the only Level 1 trauma center in our region-the next closest center is 275 miles away-began seeing victims of the violence who were rushed through our ports of entry and into our ER. Since 2008, we've spent $4.9 million in trauma care specifically for these victims; to date, we've been compensated for only $1.2 million, leaving local property taxpayers to pick up $3.7 million in uncompensated costs. We've repeatedly requested funding from the Merida initiative to help off-set the costs borne by local property taxpayers because we just don't see that financial burden diminishing - unless the U.S. changes its drug policies or the cartels suddenly declare a cease fire.

Where has some of the federal funding gone, if not to my trauma facility or increasing my law enforcement capacity? It's gone to a wall. While federal law enforcement has gone on the record to praise the border wall, it is to me and others an example of considerable federal dollars being spent on a rusting monument that makes my community look like a junk-yard.

The vast majority of border crossers are not criminals, but economic migrants; and as you know, a significant amount of illegal drugs are funneled through our ports of entry.

A true fix to undocumented immigration could come from comprehensive immigration reform that would create a path for the undocumented to regularize their status, institute migrant worker visas, and, in general, offer a realistic, common-sense approach to a complicated challenge. And comprehensive immigration reform will finally take away the platform used by state politicians who want local police and sheriff's departments to enforce federal immigration laws. For the record, the El Paso County Sheriff, the El Paso Police Chief, the El Paso Mayor, Congressman Reyes and I all oppose having local law enforcement officers enforce federal immigration laws.

Community policing, the strategy utilized so effectively by local law enforcement in El Paso, involves building trust and relationships between law enforcement and citizens that helps solve crimes and keep neighborhoods crime-free. If my sheriff's deputies are required by the Texas legislature to enforce federal immigration laws, and if they become de-facto immigration officers, that trust disappears, families become afraid to report crime, and we become a less safe community.

Another facet of an overall fix should focus on our border ports. Our ports of entry should be as modern as our cell phones are. Unfortunately, they are not. They lack significant investment in staff and infrastructure, and what should be a point of opportunity becomes simply a point of obstruction. Every year, $30 billion of commerce comes across El Paso's ports, but a minimum of at least an hour wait for vehicles and up to 2 - 3 hour wait times for pedestrians during peak periods, creates a disincentive. Consider what that wait feels like, especially for pedestrians, in the sweltering summer southwest sun.

To help be a part of the solution, El Paso County has partnered with our Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) to access FHWA funds for a Southwest Border Trade Demonstration Project (SBTDP) that will use the latest technology to track trucks coming across our ports of entry. It's a solution that, if successful, will help ease the congestion and help create smarter, more secure and efficient ports of entry that keep people and goods moving. We need more solutions like this for our ports of entry so that they are not complete bottlenecks where cars and trucks idle for hours, polluting our air and harming our economy.

I live in a thriving, safe and wonderful border community. I am fiercely loyal to and very proud of El Paso. While some politicians like to use caricatures of the border for purposes of political rhetoric-rhetoric that portrays our communities as dangerous, volatile, and unsafe-the reality for us couldn't be more different. Don't get me wrong. We have challenges, but those challenges can be addressed much more effectively by more responsible burden-sharing by the Federal government, whose mission it is to secure our borders and, by extension, our public safety, our commerce, and our immigrant population. We are indeed on the front-lines and a safe border means a safe nation. But vilifying immigrants, building expensive, ugly walls, and encouraging hysteria and xenophobia only hurts our border communities, our commerce, and the economy of the nation.

Border hearing: Escobar, McCain spar on security

El Paso Times
April 8, 2011
by Aileen B. Flores

Federal funding has not met growing demands for law enforcement agencies along the U.S.-Mexico border to meet the appetite for a secure border, County Judge Veronica Escobar said Thursday.

Escobar was part of a delegation that testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs in Washington, D.C.

During her testimony, she and committee member Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., disagreed on the value of a border fence.

Escobar said, "While federal law enforcement has gone on the record to praise the border wall, it is, to me and others, an example of considerable federal dollars being spent on a rusting monument that makes my community look like a junkyard.

"We are indeed on the front lines, and a safe border means a safe nation," she said. "But vilifying immigrants, building expensive, ugly walls, and encouraging hysteria and xenophobia only hurts our border communities, our commerce and the economy of the nation."

McCain said her comments do not apply to Arizona's citizens.

"I don't view ranchers who live in the southern part of my state who had repeated home invasions as xenophobic," he said.
McCain talked about several violent incidents in southern Arizona. He also mentioned signs posted along the Arizona border warning residents against traveling in certain areas because of potential drug and human smugglers.

He said drug smuggling has changed the jobs of border law enforcement. McCain said sheriff's deputies' jobs in border communities are more difficult, more challenging and more dangerous than ever before.

He repeatedly said he does not believe the U.S. border is immune to being affected by Mexico's violence.

"There is no logic associated with that," he said.

McCain said he appreciated the fact that U.S. border cities are safe but, to him, the statement is not logical when Mexico's violence is increasing.

McCain added that the National Guard's presence along the U.S.-Mexico border is "indispensable." He said the National Guard supplements the U.S. Border Patrol.

Escobar said the federal government has supported local law enforcement agencies through programs, funds and grants. But funding has not grown along the border over the years to meet law enforcement's needs.

"The federal funds coming into my community are critical and are not enough," she said. Escobar also said this has caused property taxes to increase and law enforcement agencies to make operational cuts.

Escobar said El Paso County has requested money from the Merida Initiative, a multiyear program that helps the governments of Mexico, Central American nations, the Dominican Republic and Haiti to confront criminal organizations.

But the U.S. government has not given the county any money from Merida, Escobar told the panel.

Specifically talking about Juárez, Escobar said the continuing pattern of violence has led to an increase in people seeking treatment at El Paso's University Medical Center trauma center.

Since 2008, El Paso County has spent close to $5 million in trauma care for victims of the Juárez violence -- of which only $1.2 million has been collected -- Escobar said.

Escobar credits El Paso's safety to a good relationship between law enforcement officials and residents.

"We depend on that relationship to keep us safe," she said. She added that El Paso has achieved its designation of America's safest city despite its proximity to Juárez -- called by many the world's most dangerous city.

Escobar voiced her support for comprehensive immigration reform and was clear that El Paso officials are against local law enforcement enforcing immigration laws.

Escobar asked for better technology and equipment for the international ports of entry and said it would speed up crossing times.

She was one of four witnesses in Thursday's hearing, which focused on illegal immigration and border-related crime in border communities.

Other witnesses were Imperial County (Calif.) Sheriff Raymond Loera, Luna County (N.M.) Sheriff Raymond Cobos and Pinal County (Ariz.) Sheriff Paul Babeu.

Cobos testified that Mexico's violence has affected his community in an indirect way.

He talked about a recent incident in which the Columbus, N.M., police chief, its mayor, a village trustee and eight others were charged with trafficking firearms to Mexican cartels.

Cobos also voiced his support of the border fence and said it has deterred women and children from crossing illegally.

The delegation's testimony was part of a series of hearings that will study progress made during the past 10 years as a result of substantial federal support to secure the U.S. border with Mexico.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Smugglers improvise ramp to drive over border fence

Yuma Sun
April 7, 2011
by Chris McDaniel

Half a million dollars worth of marijuana was seized from smugglers who used a portable truck ramp to illegally enter the U.S. from Mexico early Thursday morning.

Border Patrol agents assigned to Yuma Station were patrolling near Foothills Boulevard and the international boundary just before dawn when they encountered a 2001 Jeep Cherokee driving northbound from the fence at a high rate of speed.

“The hours of darkness are always more busy than during the daylight,” said Kenneth Quillin, supervisory Border Patrol agent for the Yuma Sector Communications Division.

Agents attempted to initiate a vehicle stop when the vehicle suddenly changed directions and headed back toward Mexico. The vehicle's occupants abandoned the vehicle in the U.S. and fled to Mexico.

“Where they returned back south is where the fence is up against a natural barrier - a mountain range - and they went around the fence,” Quillin said.

Inside the SUV, agents discovered 1,000 pounds of marijuana.

The Cherokee had entered the United States over a large ramp placed over the fence to create a portable bridge. The fence is about 12 feet tall.

“The ramp truck - the front part folds over the top of the fence so the (Cherokee) travels across the rails and the front part actually touches the ground on the other side. It actually travels up over the top,” Quillin explained.

The homemade truck ramp was crafted by smugglers, Quillin added. “They made it themselves.”

The ramp has been seized by Mexican officials. The marijuana was seized and turned over to the Drug Enforcement Administration and the vehicle was seized by Border Patrol.

The Yuma Sector Border Patrol said as a result of its efforts to disrupt and deny transnational criminal organizations from operating with impunity, smuggling organizations often abandon their narcotics rather than risk being caught and facing prosecution.