Despite puzzling proclamations by Obama administration officials that the border is “more secure than ever,” Arizonans know that statement is either untrue or irrelevant. The border is not secure and some problems are getting worse, not better.
The State Department just issued a travel advisory for American citizens (on April 22) detailing the escalating drug-cartel violence, warning Americans that “[m]uch of [Mexico’s] narcotics-related violence has occurred in the border region. More than a third of all U.S. citizens killed in Mexico in 2010 whose deaths were reported to the U.S. government were killed in the border cities of Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana. Narcotics-related homicide rates in the border states of Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas have increased dramatically in the past two years.”
Some of this violence has spilled over the border. Drug smuggling continues apace and hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants continue to cross the border every year. That’s not acceptable.
Senator John McCain and I recently introduced an expanded version of our 10-point plan
to combat illegal immigration, drug and alien smuggling, and violent activity along the border.
Similar to the plan we introduced in 2010, it would deploy no fewer than 6,000 National Guard troops to the United States-Mexico border to help augment the Border Patrol’s security efforts. It would also add 5,000 additional Border Patrol agents by 2016, and offer Hardship Duty Pay to agents who are assigned to rural, high-trafficked areas. The plan also calls for 500 additional Customs inspectors for the southwest border in order to enhance security and decrease the excessively long wait times at Arizona’s ports of entry.
The proposal also increases funding to successful border security programs, like Operation Stonegarden, the Southwest Border Prosecutors Initiative, and Operation Streamline. Operation Streamline, for example, is a program that targets illegal immigrants with immediate prosecution, including up to 60 days of jail time, rather than just releasing them. The program has been fully implemented in Del Rio, Texas and Yuma, Ariz. sectors of the border, and has dramatically reduced the number of persons illegally crossing the border in those sectors since its implementation in 2005. In the Yuma sector, apprehensions plummeted by 94 percent, from 118,530 in 2006 to just 7,116 in 2010 (and it’s declining). By comparison, in the Tucson sector, where Operation Streamline has only limited implementation, apprehensions still hover at an alarming total of 212,202 in 2010.
The McCain-Kyl 10-point plan would also fund the construction of additional double-layer fencing at needed locations along the border and replace outdated and ineffective landing-mat fencing. It would also fund additional, and upgrade existing, Border Patrol stations, complete construction of the planned permanent checkpoint in Arizona, and deploy additional temporary roving checkpoints.
Our proposal would also provide funding for enhanced technology and equipment. The plan would specifically increase the number of mobile and other surveillance systems and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles that monitor vast expansions of land along the United States-Mexico border. It would also fund vital radio communications and interoperability between Customs and Border Patrol and state, local, and tribal law enforcement.
Communities throughout the United States deal with effects of illegal immigration, but none like those near the border in Arizona. There, American citizens no longer feel safe in their homes and worry about the security of their property — indeed, the failure to secure the border is altering their way of life.
One of the government’s most basic responsibilities is to ensure the security of its citizens. It is my hope that this administration will go beyond the wishful proclamations, and support our legislation so we can fulfill this responsibility.