Feds to Fortify Ariz. Border
More agents, aircraft to patrol near Mexico
Daniel González and Susan Carroll, Arizona Republic, Mar. 16
Arizona’s 350-mile border with Mexico will be the most heavily patrolled stretch in the nation under a federal plan that will be announced today in Tucson.
The effort, dubbed the Arizona Border Control Initiative, will add 260 Border Patrol agents, four helicopters and several aircraft in the next few months in a multiagency effort to control the flow of illegal immigration through the state and reduce migrant deaths in the desert.
A U.S. Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman would not rule out the possibility that for the first time the federal government might deploy unmanned drones over the border, like those developed for use by the military.
The number of apprehensions in Arizona, more than 400,000 last year, “points up that the Arizona border is the greatest challenge we face in terms of controlling our borders,” said Asa Hutchinson, Department of Homeland Security undersecretary for border and transportation security. Last year, Arizona agents accounted for nearly 40 percent of all undocumented immigrants apprehensions in the country.
A broad effort
During a meeting with editors and reporters Monday at The Arizona Republic, Hutchinson said the plan will bring together federal, tribal, state and local law enforcement agencies, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection, the Transportation Security Administration, the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Justice Department.
Hutchinson said the plan will dovetail with increased efforts by the federal government to crack down on employers who hire undocumented immigrants.
He will announce details of the initiative today at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson.
Suzanne Luber, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, said that under the initiative, the federal government plans to deploy 260 additional Border Patrol agents along southern Arizona’s border with Mexico, including 60 agents on temporary assignment for the summer from other sectors.
The additional agents will boost the number of Border Patrol agents assigned to the Tucson sector to nearly 2,000, the most of any sector in the country, Luber said. The Tucson sector is responsible for patrolling all but the southwest corner of the state’s border with Mexico.
Last summer, the federal government recorded 151 migrant deaths in the Arizona desert, a record. An analysis by The Republic, however, counted 205 migrant deaths.
As part of the initiative to control the Arizona border, the federal government also plans to voluntarily repatriate undocumented immigrants to the interior of Mexico.
That plan, however, is contingent on a final agreement with the Mexican government, Hutchinson said.
Mark Krikorian, director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that advocates stricter immigration controls, said that the federal government’s adding agents is a short-term fix and that more resources should be dedicated to prosecuting U.S. employers who hire undocumented immigrants.
“If you’re a politician looking for any easy way to appear tough on immigration, border enforcement is the ticket. But as we’ve seen over the past 10 years, border enforcement alone won’t solve the problem,” Krikorian said. “You have to have both border efforts and interior enforcement . . . inside the country so the magnet that attracts people across the border is turned off.”