Facing up the border with the right solutions

WASHINGTON, D.C. — There has been a lot of publicity about the so-called “Minutemen,” private citizens organizing at the Mexican border to stand guard against illegal immigration. Less publicized, but more significant, are new efforts by the Department of Homeland Security to deal with the problem more comprehensively.

Phase II of the Arizona Border Control (ABC) initiative, announced last Wednesday, will significantly increase Border Patrol personnel, aerial support and the use of “smart border” technologies as well as strengthen partnerships with state, tribal and local law enforcement. More than 530 additional Border Patrol agents will be permanently assigned to the Arizona border, an increase of nearly 25 percent, and processes further streamlined for deporting illegal aliens, particularly those with criminal records.

The original ABC initiative, launched last year, was a large-scale multi-agency initiative aimed at controlling the Arizona-Mexico border, combating alien smuggling, and reducing the violent crime and need for social services associated with illegal immigration. It made Tucson the “most enforced sector in the country” for the Border Patrol, and resulted in the apprehension of 384,954 individuals, a 42 percent increase over 2003. Border deaths were dramatically reduced, and more than 14,000 illegal aliens were repatriated into the interior of Mexico through a pilot program negotiated with the Mexican government. Agents also seized thousands of tons of illegal narcotics, and prosecutors indicted 340 dangerous human smugglers for a variety of crimes including money laundering, kidnapping, narcotics smuggling and weapons charges.

When complete, Phase II will raise bring operational manpower for the Tucson Sector to more than 2,300 permanent CBP Border Patrol agents, as well as tighten controls at all Arizona ports of entry to thwart alien smuggling. The new aircraft will include 16 “A-Star” helicopters, 4 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and 3 fixed-wing aircraft.

These new resources won’t solve the problem overnight. But they represent real, concrete steps forward in dealing with a large and complex problem.

Certainly, they stand in market contrast to some profoundly unhelpful remarks of late by Mexican President Vicente Fox, who has publicly scoffed at U.S. objections to illegal immigration and called efforts to enforce the border, such as the “triple fence” planned for San Diego, “discriminatory” and “against freedom.”

The United States is a sovereign nation that has every right to protect its borders, as other countries do, without baseless accusations of ‘discrimination’. The process for entering the United States legally is straightforward and not terribly difficult - it seems painfully obvious that deterrence measures like walls only ‘discriminate’ against those who intend to break the law.

What make Fox’s statements particularly galling are reports that Mexico consistently violates the rights of illegal immigrants crossing its own southern border from Central and South America. The State Department’s February Human Rights Practices report cites abuses at all levels of the Mexican government, and charges that Mexican police and immigration officials not only abuse illegal immigrants, but actually participate in trafficking them.

If President Fox is serious about helping to reduce illegal immigration and its various related problems, he should look in his own back yard. Another good step would be to acknowledge the United States’ right to defend its borders and demonstrate perhaps a little less disdain for the rule of law north of the border.

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