Texas border stakeholders scrutinize federal security approach
January 12, 2012 11:36 PM
McALLEN — The federal government's prosecution of the war on drugs
received a rebuke and a few pointers Thursday from a group of local
border security stakeholders.
A report from the Texas Border Coalition — which comprises mayors,
judges and economic development drivers living along the Texas border
— takes on the allocation of federal resources.
The Obama administration announced a shift in strategy Dec. 20 that
will reduce the boots on the ground in order to focus resources up
Seventy-five percent of the National Guardsmen deployed to the U.S.-
Mexico border in the summer of 2010 — months after the Zetas and the
Gulf Cartel split — will head home.
Only 300 of the 1,200 troops stationed along the Southwestern border
Meanwhile, the Pentagon is preparing to spend nearly $60 million in
air support, which includes the use of drones and helicopters, for
U.S. Border Patrol agents.
The investment, however, focuses not on the legal border crossings
but the stretches of land between them, and it overlooks funding
needed at those 52 ports of entry, which is where most of the
legitimate travel and trade takes place, Texas Border Coalition
representatives said Thursday.
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, bemoaned an imbalance in budgetary
increases between the Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection
personnel at ports of entry, respectively.
"We hire a lot of men and women in green," he said, "but we need to
hire more men and women in blue."
MORE GREEN FOR THE GREEN
The federal government has poured about $90 billion into securing the
U.S.-Mexico border over the past decade, with a significant amount
used in the deployment of the National Guardsmen, the building of a
border fence and an increase in manpower for various agencies,
including the Border Patrol, which has seen a sixfold increase since
Nineteen years ago, there were just 4,000 agents stationed along the
United States' borders. Today, there are about 24,285, according to a
report released Thursday by the Texas Border Coalition titled
"Without Strategy: America's Border Security Blunders Facilitate and
Empower Mexico's Drug Cartels."
The coalition issued the report "to let Congress know what is truly
going on at the U.S.-Mexico border," Eagle Pass Mayor and coalition
Chairman Ramsey Cantu said during a teleconference.
Since 1993, the Border Patrol's budget has seen a ninefold increase,
from $400 million to $3.6 billion, officials said.
During that same time frame, funding for CBP inspectors increased
from $1.6 billion to $2.9 billion — an 80 percent increase.
The coalition is asking the federal government to allocate more money
for manpower, infrastructure and technology at the ports of entry,
where the bulk of the work is coming through, Cuellar said.
They agree with a recommendation from the Government Accountability
Office that indicates CBP needs an additional 6,000 inspectors and $6
million in funding for infrastructure and technology within the next
four years, but there is no indication from the Department of
Homeland Security that will happen.
The legal ports of entry "have become America's weakest border
security link," the report goes on to say. An illegal immigrant has a
better chance of successfully entering the country through a
legitimate port of entry than through the land in between.
Criminals face a 90 percent likelihood of apprehension when crossing
between the gaps, but they are less challenged at border crossings,
where the apprehension rate is 28 percent.
Mexican drug cartels already are operating in 250 cities throughout
the U.S. and every illegal entry is a concern, Cuellar said. The
federal government, however, does not seem to have a clear strategic
direction and operates on an ad hoc basis.
"Without a strategy, America will continue to lose the border
security war to the better financed, equipped, more mobile and agile
drug cartels," the report reads. "The Texas Border Coalition suggests
that the only reasonable path forward is to refocus our border
security priorities where our nation is most vulnerable: at the legal
The lack of funding at the ports of entry is leading to increased
wait times and deterring Mexican investments, McAllen Mayor Richard
"We can't fix budgetary issues simply by cutting expenses. We need to
increase trade with Canada and Mexico," he said. "The border is a big
contributor to the American economy.
"Jobs all over the U.S. are affected by how bad or how well we do."
Many people don't realize that 6 million U.S. jobs depend on business
with Mexico, Cuellar said. One in every 24 jobs depend on U.S. trade
for their employment.
"We don't want to have a parking lot on the middle of the bridge," he
said. "We'd rather have those people at our stores, the hotels and
the malls instead."
Naxiely Lopez covers law enforcement and general assignments for The
Monitor. She can be reached at email@example.com and (956) 683-4434.