Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Homeland Security Looks for Guns and Money Heading South

Yesterday morning Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced a plan to enhance security at our southern border: keep drug money and guns from heading south.

That's right. Why keep illegal aliens and drugs from
coming into the U.S. when we can keep illegal aliens and money and guns from going into Mexico?

It does make sense, though, in a sadly ironic way. The idea is to slow down the flood of money and weapons into the hands of horrifyingly violent drug cartels so that the violence in Mexico doesn't become so pervasive that it spills over into the U.S.

Talk about closing the barn door after the horse is gone. Huge amounts of money and guns are going south in exchange for huge amounts of drugs coming north. About $50 billion flow into Mexico's economy from illegal drugs each year, and the Brookings Institution estimates that about 2,000 firearms cross the border into Mexico each day. Homeland Security's victories at the southern border, though individually impressive, are almost less than a drop in the proverbial bucket. Last Friday Customs officers in Laredo, Texas, found nearly $3 million hidden in a bus. In the last nine weeks, one effort, called Operation Armas Cuzadas, captured $4.5 million. This fiscal year, a partnership between the ICE Attaché in Mexico City and Customs and Border Protection recovered $25 million. During the second week of March, 997 firearms were seized at or near the border.

Mexico's drug criminals don't really need more weapons. Since 2007, more than 10,000 people in Mexico have been murdered by organized crime. Since January of 2008, almost 1900 people have been murdered in the city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, just across the border from El Paso. For a truly disturbing investigative report on the extent of the problem, see "Mexico's War on Drugs: Journey into a Lawless Land," by Richard Grant in The Independent. Grant's statistics on the dependence of Mexico's economy on the illicit drug trade don't inspire hope that a solution to the problem can be found, at least not in our lifetimes.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has asked for 1,000 troops to guard the border. "I don't care if they are military, National Guard or customs agents," he said. However, it doesn't look like Napolitano believes in the kind of tough love Perry has in mind. Like her boss, Barack Obama, she's for communication, lots of communication. Oh yes, and investigation.

Homeland Security will be sending 95 more Border Enforcement Security Task Force personnel to bring local, state, and federal personal together to find and dismantle criminal organizations. A few intelligence analysts will go to the border too. Thirty new officers will act as liaisons between U.S. and Mexican law enforcement. Fifty new agents and officers will go to border field offices to work in the Violent Criminal Alien Sections of the Criminal Alien Program.

A hundred additional Border Patrol agents will inspect outbound shipments, and customs will also get three new Mobile Response Teams of 25 officers each, in case things get out of hand.

About 360 officers and agents will be redeployed from elsewhere to the border and to Mexico. Mexico also will get a dozen more ICE Attaché agents to work in "troubled areas . . . such as Ciudad Juarez and Hermosillo."

New technology headed to the border is intended to detect money, weapons, and violent criminal aliens. Smuggled cash and weapons cross to Mexico in trains, passenger vehicles, luggage, and on people. To prevent money and guns from getting into the hands of South-of-the-Border really bad guys, southbound train cars and passenger vehicles will be screened for "anomalies" using non-intrusive inspection equipment. To help catch smuggler's vehicles, passenger vehicles will be screened using an increased number of mobile X-ray units. Nearly half of the 110 outbound lanes headed to Mexico will get upgraded license plate readers.

To help nab violent criminal aliens, biometric identification equipment will be used. Customs also will get a dozen new teams of "cross trained" dogs that can detect both currency and weapons. Eight additional Law Enforcement Tactical Centers will help Customs share information with local enforcers.

Governor Perry is not greatly impressed. He wants help keeping the bad guys out.

While we appreciate the additional investigative resources, what we really need are more border patrol agents and officers at the bridges to conduct increased northbound and southbound inspections, as well as additional funding for local law enforcement along the border to deny Mexican drug cartels access to the United States [italics mine].

Too late to wish for border guards the likes of El Paso natives and Border Patrol Agents Jose Compean and Ignacio Ramos, who weren't above shooting a fleeing repeat-offender drug dealer in the rear end after they caught him hauling a million dollars worth of illegal drugs into the U.S.

How much money will Homeland Security's new direction add to our budget? Not a lot, according to Napolitano. Much of the border policing upgrade will be "revenue neutral," that is, funded by "realigning from less urgent activities, fund balances, and reprogramming."

Hold on a minute. "Realigning from less urgent activities"? Exactly what activities might be considered "less urgent" than acting as customs inspector for our southern neighbor?

Napolitano's recent displeasure at finding out that illegal alien workers had been busted in a raid give one obvious signal, as does House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's cry that deporting illegal aliens breaks up families. The inability of Congress to fund E-Verify to help employers sort out who is legal and who is not speaks volumes too. (I've posted on this here.)

It very much looks like politics as usual. A little here, a little there. A program that looks like the border enforcement many Americans want and need, if only they don't read the fine print.

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