August 8, 2008

Border politics: We're snubbed, agents-wise

El Paso Times Staff
Article Launched: 08/08/2008 12:00:00 AM MDT

Politics, it seems, is determining where Border Patrol agents are being mustered these days. El Paso, and especially citizens in Texas' Rio Grande Valley, have openly criticized Homeland Security measures along the border, mainly the controversial border fence now under construction.

So maybe it wasn't such a surprise to see that the tiny San Diego area of the U.S.-Mexico border has 37 agents per square mile while Arizona and the Texas sectors, including El Paso, have only 11.

The southern border stretches nearly 2,000 miles. The San Diego sector is only 60 miles of that total, and much of it is fenced. There are also natural barriers -- to the west is the Pacific Ocean and to the east is a mountain range.

Meanwhile, Arizona has been the busiest area for illegal crossings; small Mexican towns pepper the border there.

And El Paso is right across a few international bridges from Juárez, where that city's drug-cartel violence has seen more than 700 executions; Juárez citizens are seeking asylum here.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, sticking up for us, said: "I think it makes us less safe," in regards to how the federal government has stationed the men of border protection.

El Paso and Laredo are two of the nation's busiest ports of entry and both have long stretches of open land where illegal border crossings are everyday occurrences.

As the Associated Press reported this week, the short San Diego sector is already highly fortified: "Two-thirds of the border is blocked by fences or vehicle barriers. The most populous part of the boundary has nearly 10 miles of double-layer fences with stadium lights."

T.J. Bonner, president of the agents' union, said just what we're now being led to believe: "Congress giveth and taketh away, so you can't just thumb your nose at Congress ... "

We've fought for more federal money to secure our Texas border -- our El Paso border.

We think more agents and more technology are the answers to securing our border from illegal drug smugglers and other criminal elements.

Now, after we've joined with other Texas communities along the border to criticize Homeland Security measures, the boots on the ground are going elsewhere.


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