Approaches to Securing Our Southern Borders
By Congressman Henry Cuellar
Washington, DC- As the Chairman of Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Communications, Preparedness, and Response, I accept the challenge of participating in legislative policies that govern our nation’s border security. I know there are many issues facing our country, but there is nothing more important than making sure that all Americans feel a sense of security in this country. My duty, as a representative of the border region, is to address the concerns that the American people present. I take those concerns seriously, and it is for this reason that we must continue initiating multi-phased approaches to border security.
The border fence, as mandated by the previous Congress, is merely one option that can be considered in securing our border. The “fence” can be viewed in much broader terms and defined as the total resources brought together to secure our border. I am confident that an array of strategies working in consort will prove effective in securing what many people believe is a porous and therefore dangerous border. A fence is by no means a literal concept, nor is it a simple one. Rather, a fence to deter terrorism, narcotics smuggling, and cross-border violence takes different forms: a hard-line fence, a virtual fence, and increased presence by our Border Patrol agents.
A Department of Homeland Security senior official has expressed the department’s commitment to completing a projected 370 miles of fencing along the US-Mexican border by December 2008. I have been an advocate of a virtual fence or “Smart Border” technology, which relies on new developments in science by using sophisticated camera surveillance, ground sensors, and other state of the art technologies. These technical advances are a force multiplier, freeing our border patrol agents to conduct patrols in the most vulnerable areas. I am also looking into other sensitive capabilities that may be applied to border security. The proper development of these technical capabilities could precede the need for a hard-line fence. One key component to border security is the proper utilization of our of our valued Border Patrol agents. The Border Patrol continues to increase training and response capability of their specialized units to support our domestic and international security concerns.
Our efforts to secure the border must also combine with other law enforcement initiatives, including cooperative operations with Mexico. On September 3, 2007, for example, Mexican Authorities arrested a Mexican national in Escobedo, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. The individual was indicted for the kidnapping of a Laredo resident. Missing Americans along the border remains a priority, and this recent success gives us hope and a sense of urgency to our continuing efforts by the Mexican authorities to resolve these crimes and working cooperatively with U.S. law enforcement to bring the criminals to justice.
Together, the Mexican and U.S. law enforcement formed the Bilateral Kidnapping Task Force (BKTF) in October 2006. The task force bands FBI agents, local law enforcement officers from San Antonio and Mexican Federal Police to investigate cross border crime. The Mexican Government recently restructured their Mexican Federal Police to root out corruption and identify their best officers to actively investigate cases involving cross-border crimes. This is extremely encouraging and demonstrates the level of attention given to criminal cases by Mexican President Calderon. Such concerns are known to the Administration and appropriate agencies of the executive branch are engaged in developing strategies with their Mexican counterparts.
The efforts and initiatives discussed demonstrate a strong commitment by both countries to having a secure border that is open to trade, tourism, and promoting the rich cultures of both nations.