Visiting Anzalduas Park Tuesday to assess border security needs, Congressman Michael McCaul, chairman of the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee, described the assets allocated for border security in the Rio Grande Sector as “woefully inadequate.”
Chairman McCaul led a Congressional delegation visit to the Rio Grande Valley, which included a tour of the Rio Grande River at Anzalduas Park, located south of Mission. The visit was part of a three-day inspection of key border areas, including San Diego, Tucson and the Rio Grande Valley.
Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw, DPS Commander Joe Rodriguez, Border Patrol RGV Sector Chief Rosendo Hinojosa, several border county sheriffs, Pct. 3 Constable Larry Gallardo and other law enforcement officials participated in the visit. After a half-hour tour of the river aboard a DPS river patrol boat, the congressman said the group discovered a dead body floating in the river, which underscores the pressing need to address border security in this area.
During the visits, the congressmen were briefed on operations in the San Diego, Tucson and Rio Grande Valley Sectors of the Border Patrol. They examined the assets being used in each sector to determine what works best to control the southwest border. A combination of security measures have been put in place that have effectively curtailed illegal crossings in the San Diego and Tucson sectors. However, apprehensions of illegals in the Rio Grande sector have increased dramatically over the past year.
McCaul said his delegation has, over the past few days, made visits to San Diego and Tucson, where border fencing combined with great technology has greatly reduced illegal border crossings and drug trafficking.
“The net result is, with San Diego and Tucson being fortified, we’re seeing an increase in crossings right here in the Rio Grande Sector. In fact, over last year it’s increased, I think, 55 percent,” McCaul said after completing the tour of a section of the Rio Grande River aboard a DPS river patrol boat.
U.S. Border Patrol public information officer Daniel Tirado confirmed that stepped up security measures have been working in the Tucson area, but illegal activity has shifted to the Rio Grande Valley, where the agency has far fewer assets. In the last fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2012, Tucson had 120,000 apprehensions and 4,176 agents in the field. During the same period, the Rio Grande Sector had 97,762 apprehensions and just 2,546 agents.
“In May (the RGV Sector) surpassed Arizona in apprehensions. We have over 120,000, year-to-date,” said Tirado. This sector presently has approximately 2,700 Border Patrol agents.
Congressman McCaul has drafted a bill, H.R. 1417, known as the Border Security Results Act of 2013, that would require the Department of Homeland Security, together with input from all the key players, such as border sheriffs, Border Patrol and the Coast Guard, to formulate a strategy to secure the border. The plan, which has specific time table benchmarks, would include an assessment of principal border security threats. The bill also calls for a comprehensive border security technology plan for detection.
McCaul said 90 days after H.R. 1417 is passed by Congress, “We’ll have a plan submitted where we can view the capability gaps and then in a responsible way, allocate the resources, what types of resources and where they need to go.”
He added that the assets presently allocated for the Rio Grande Sector are “woefully inadequate.” He added, “This sector probably needs more resources than any on the U.S. - Mexico border.”
Webb County Sheriff Martin Cuellar, of Laredo, said technology is very important in any plan to secure the border. He specifically cited the need for more cameras and helicopters, as well as more boots on the ground.
“It’s got to be a comprehensive strategy of a variety of assets, whether they be fixed towers, mobile towers, DOD assets from Afghanistan, or aviation assets to see on the ground what’s happening,” he said.
Congressman Leonard Lance of New Jersey said, “Securing the southern border is a national issue and it is as important to the people of New Jersey as it is to people here in Texas. I think there is a national security component involved as well.”
Referring to a dead body the congressional delegation saw floating in the river as they toured the Rio Grande by boat, Lance said, “To see this morning a dead body right here is a dramatic indication that we have to do a better job.”
Congressman Kevin Yoder of Kansas said, “For the people of Kansas this is a very important issue. We need immigration reform in this country. And part of that is going to be securing our borders.
“What I’ve learned on this trip is that it’s very complicated, and it’s not as simple as just a fence. It’s fencing. It’s personnel. It’s technology. It’s helicopters. It’s boats. It’s very complicated. That’s why we’re going to need an integrated approach.
Yoder said, “We also need a good entry-exit program. Forty percent of the people who are in this country without good status have overstayed their visas. So that means we’ve got interior security issues as well as border security issues.”
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