Law­men out­gunned on Mex­ico border

The Washington Times Weekly - - Front Page - By Jerry Seper

Alien and drug smug­glers along the U.S.-Mex­ico border have spawned a rise in vi­o­lence against fed­eral, state and lo­cal law-en­force­ment au­thor ities, who say they are out­manned and out­gunned.

“They’ve got weapons, high­tech ra­dios, com­put­ers, cell phones, Global Po­si­tion­ing Sys­tems, spot­ters and can re­act faster than we are able to,” said Shawn P. Mo­ran, a 10-year U.S. Border Pa­trol vet­eran who serves as vice pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Border Pa­trol Coun­cil Lo­cal 1613 in San Diego.

“And they have no hes­i­tancy to at­tack the agents on the line, with any­thing from as­sault ri­fles and im­pro­vised Molo­tov cock­tails to rocks, con­crete slabs and bot­tles,” he said. “There are so many agent ‘rock­ings’ that few are even re­ported any­more. If we wrote them all up, that’s all we would be do­ing.”

As­saults against Border Pa­trol agents have more than dou­bled over the past two years, many by Mex­ico-based alien and drug gangs more in­clined than ever to use vi­o­lence as a means of en­sur­ing suc­cess in the smug­gling of peo­ple and con­tra­band.

Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Michael Chertoff ac­knowl­edges that al­though the de­part­ment has be­gun to make progress

against “the cr im­i­nals and thugs” op­er­at­ing along the U.S.Mex­ico border, “we are be­gin­ning to see more vi­o­lence in some border com­mu­ni­ties and against our Border Pa­trol agents as th­ese traf­fick­ers [. . . ] seek to pro­tect their turf.

“We must pro­vide the man­power and re­sources they need to carry out their du­ties, and we are work­ing hard to make sure they get them,” Mr. Chertoff said dur­ing a speech in Hous­ton this month.

U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment (ICE), the in­ves­tiga­tive arm of Home­land Se­cu­rity, stated in a re­port ear­lier this year that border gangs were be­com­ing in­creas­ingly ruth­less — tar­get­ing ri­vals, along with fed­eral, state and lo­cal po­lice. ICE de­scribed vi­o­lence on the border as ris­ing dra­mat­i­cally over the past three years in what it called “an un­prece­dented surge.”

But many agents think they are viewed as “ex­pend­able” by the man­agers within Home­land Se­cu­rity and the Border Pa­trol. They say that while the num­ber of agents over­all has in­creased dra­mat­i­cally over the past year, the ac­tual num­ber of line agents has not seen a cor­re­spond­ing jump.

Sev­eral noted that one sixmile sec­tion of border near San Diego, re­garded as one of the most dan­ger­ous alien- and drugsmug­gling cor­ri­dors in the coun­try, pre­vi­ously was as­signed as many as 50 agents, but has been ex­panded to 13 miles and has one agent posted for each mile.

“That kind of sit­u­a­tion is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly com­mon,” Mr. Mo­ran said. “The sta­tus quo is un­ac­cept­able. Agents are be­ing as­saulted four to five times per shift. Iron­i­cally, the re­gion has of­ten been touted as the cor­ner­stone of Op­er­a­tion Gate­keeper. Well, the cor­ner­stone is crum­bling and if changes don’t hap­pen soon, we will lose an agent.”

Op­er­a­tion Gate­keeper was a Clin­ton-era se­cu­rity ini­tia­tive that put 300 agents on the U.S.Mex­ico border near San Diego, along with more fenc­ing and light­ing. It was based on a sim­i­lar pro­gram in El Paso, Texas, where agents were sta­tioned within sight of one an­other at main cross­ing points in or­der to form a hu­man wall.

“Where are all th­ese new agents they say they’re hir­ing?” Mr. Mo­ran asked. “It’s hard to be­lieve that Mr. Chertoff means it when he says his job is to pro­vide the man­power and re­sources the agents need to carry out their du­ties, to give them the means to pro­tect them­selves against vi­o­lence from crim­i­nal traf­fick­ers.”

Mr. Mo­ran noted that many agents are be­ing as­signed to “non-border ac­tiv­i­ties,” in­clud­ing jobs at Border Pa­trol head­quar­ters in Wash­ing­ton. He said the agency’s head­quar­ters soon may be the largest re­gional of­fice in the en­tire Border Pa­trol, “as­signed the task of telling the pub­lic what a good job we’re do­ing.”

Sev­eral agents noted that many of the alien- and drugsmug­gling gangs tar­get­ing lawen­force­ment au­thor ities are do­ing so with so­phis­ti­cated weaponry. They noted that in Fe­bru­ary, an ICE-led task force seized two com­pleted im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vices, ma­te­ri­als for mak­ing 33 more de­vices, 300 primers, 1,280 rounds of am­mu­ni­tion, five grenades, nine pipes with end caps, 26 grenade trig­gers, 31 grenade spoons, 40 grenade pins, 19 black pow­der cas­ings, a si­lencer and cash dur­ing raids in Laredo, Texas.

“Keep­ing ex­plo­sives and other high-pow­ered weaponry out of the hands of vi­o­lent crim­i­nal or­ga­ni­za­tions is a cen­tral fo­cus of the new Border En­force­ment Se­cu­rity Task Force in Laredo,” Home­land Se­cu­rity As­sis­tant Sec­re­tary Julie L. My­ers, who heads ICE, said in an­nounc­ing the seizures. “ICE is work­ing day and night with its task force part­ners to stem the tide of vi­o­lence that has been rav­aging border com­mu­ni­ties in south Texas.”

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