Theodore's World: Border Sheriffs: DC Not Taking Border Security Seriously

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September 13, 2013

Border Sheriffs: DC Not Taking Border Security Seriously

Border Sheriffs: DC Not Taking Border Security Seriously


It's monsoon season in southern Arizona, so Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels has to drive slowly along the hilly, rocky, muddy terrain that covers the 83-mile border his county shares with Mexico.

He scans the horizon to see whether any immigrants or drug smugglers are approaching the 4-foot-high border fence. Glancing at the lights of a city in Mexico, he turns and says, "Seen any Border Patrol agents?"

Dannels' complaints about the lack of Border Patrol agents along the border suggests he supports a Senate plan to flood the Southwest border with 20,000 new agents. But he doesn't. He doesn't think border security proposals in the House will do much, either.

"The people in my county are very frustrated," Dannels says, looking at the lush green of a valley that will soon shrivel to brown in the desert sun. "They feel border security hasn't been taken seriously."

Congress returned from recess this week facing a busy schedule, featuring debates over Syria, health care and the debt limit.

But Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said they also will find time to dive into immigration.

The Senate and House have spent months crafting their own versions of overhauls to the nation's immigration laws. Yet Dannels is among more than a dozen sheriffs interviewed by USA TODAY who police the border from California to Texas and say the plans from Washington will do little to secure the border.

They say they have proposals that will work - more prosecutions of border crossers, closer screening of people going through border crossings, putting pressure on Mexico to do its part. But they feel they've been shoved aside by a Congress more interested in cutting a deal than finding solutions.

"They've had every organization up there except law enforcement. I just don't understand that," said Doña Ana County, N.M., Sheriff Todd Garrison. "If we just had a seat at the table and could express our concerns, it would at least shed some light on these issues."


The border with Mexico is a nearly 2,000-mile range of starkly differing terrain where the problems of how to stop illegal immigration depend on where you are - the beaches of San Diego, the mountains of Arizona, the wide-open deserts of New Mexico or the swift rivers in Texas.

The sweeping immigration bill passed by the Senate in July attempts to solve the problem with a $46 billion "border surge" that is mostly spent on adding 20,000 new Border Patrol agents, and $3 billion in new monitoring technology, including sensors, radars, drones and helicopters.

That surge won over Senate Republicans who pushed for a secure border before they could agree to grant a pathway to citizenship for the nation's undocumented immigrants, a provision that Democrats have insisted on.

But of the 17 sheriffs interviewed by USA TODAY, whose jurisdictions cover most of the U.S.-Mexico border, only one said they felt all those new agents were needed. The rest said they feel Border Patrol simply needs a new strategy and new technology.

"They're tripping over themselves now," Hudspeth County, Texas, Sheriff Arvin West said of the current 18,500 Border Patrol agents working the Southwest border.

The problem, West says, is that Border Patrol agents are no longer on the border, but working many miles inland. West has spent 30 years in the western Texas county where most of the border fence consists of posts strung with a few strands of barbed wire. It's dangerous work to patrol the wild, rugged terrain in the middle of the night.

He, like all other sheriffs interviewed, respect the Border Patrol agents who risk their lives to keep the border safe and secure.

"But put them on the damned border," he said. "In some places here, they are 60, 70 miles away. It's going to take some (courage) to go down there. When you first get down there ... you're going to (tick) the drug dealers off. But once they understand that you held the line, they're going to look for weaker spots further down the line."

From his years of experience, Sheriff Clint McDonald in Terrell County, Texas, knows that there are 38 points in his county where people from Mexico can cross the Rio Grande. Yet Border Patrol does not go there.

"I guess I'm stupid, but I would think if you put people at those 38 crossings, people wouldn't come across," he said.

But in many areas along the border, federal Border Patrol agents spend most of their time patrolling roads and highways farther inland. Typically, drivers on Interstate 8 in California, I-19 in Arizona and I-10 in Texas see Border Patrol at highway checkpoints where agents wave most cars through, but stop suspicious-looking vehicles for additional screening.

"Why can we drive 10 miles on the border and see three Border Patrol agents, but drive 3 miles north to our checkpoint and you have 30 (Border Patrol) vehicles parked there?" asked Sheriff Dannels in Cochise County. "That makes no sense."

Wild Thing's comment................

Too many in power, the lilberals in both parties are for amnesty which is adding to the problem.

Posted by Wild Thing at September 13, 2013 12:48 AM


Border patrol agents? Why do we have a military? Oh yea, to defend al Queada in Syria.

Posted by: bobf at September 13, 2013 07:37 AM