The Unusual Border Deaths

On October 25th, 2012, two illegal immigrants from Guatemala, Jose Leonardo Coj Cumar and Marco Antonio Castro, died from shots fired by a Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper.  Trooper Miguel Avila also wounded a third immigrant. What is “unusual” about this incident is that all three, Cumar, age 32, and Estrada, 29, and a third illegal immigrant who was wounded were all riding in the back of a moving truck.  And Trooper Avila, when he pulled the trigger of his rifle, fired from a hovering Texas DPS helicopter.

The Texas DPS claims that its helicopter sharpshooter was just trying to shoot the tires of the fleeing vehicle.  The truck’s driver, just 14 years of age, had refused to pull over when Texas Parks and Wildlife game wardens approached the vehicle.  Game wardens mistakenly believed the truck was full of drugs hidden under the tarp in back when, in fact, it was filled with illegal immigrants.

The second aspect of this incident which is “unusual” is that Texas DPS policy on October 25th, 2012, allowed trained snipers to shoot from helicopters at moving vehicles.  Since that time this policy has been rescinded but, according to the Texas DPS, the change in policy was not the result of the two fatalities and the wounding of a third illegal immigrant.

It is now June and this incident is indeed becoming very “unusual”.  No grand jury has as yet heard any evidence.  The District Attorney of Hidalgo County, Rene Guerra, blames the New Mexico ballistics lab for not completing forensic tests.  Guerra first announced the grand jury would hear the evidence on the deaths of Cumar and Castro in Febuary, 2013.

District Attorney Rene Guerra is the same official who made very interesting statements last Saturday night on a CNN Anderson Cooper Special  Report “The Beauty and the Priest”.  Guerra, who has been the District Attorney for Hidalgo County for 30 years, firmly believes that there is no sufficient evidence to bring to trial a priest who allegedly raped and killed a parishioner in 1960 despite what Cooper’s report asserted was new evidence.

However, in April Guerra did announce he would prosecute the 14-year-old truck driver as an adult.

Even in south Texas seven months is much too long a time to wait for justice for the two undocumented workers who are dead and the third who is wounded.

Posted in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

Fundamentals about Immigration We Should Never Forget

There will undoubtedly be colorful debate in the Senate next month as the Judiciary Committee voted yesterday to approve the new immigration policy proposed by the Gang of Eight. The 13 to 5 bipartisan vote was no small political achievement in and of itself given the wide range of opinions on both side of the isle; the Senate committee alone faced 300 amendments to their legislation.

On the other hand, Congress and the President are in agreement that the current immigration policy in place, the 1986 artifact known as the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), is badly broken and requires serious reform.  So it is timely to recall a few fundamental facts that get lost among all the talk by the immigration “experts”, many of whom appear to suffer from short-term memory loss.  And, as well, I offer three low-cost reforms that will greatly improve national security along our border with Mexico.

Any American historian worth their salt will remind us that we are a nation of immigrants.  Regardless of country of origin, immigrants over the course of the last three centuries have established a legacy of lasting contributions that have allowed the United States to excel on a variety of fronts.  But at the same time human nature, regardless of country of origin, has also repeated itself time and again in the form of blatant discrimination against new immigrants by those who came before them.  The Mayflower clearly must have had to been the size of the Titanic times ten to transport all of those Americans who now claim a heritage dating to Plymouth Rock.

But rarely, in spite of the viciousness of the stereotypes frequently directed at recent immigrants, have we made it so difficult, legally or illegally, for a fair shot at the American Dream. Those in Mexico who cannot qualify for the relatively small number of legal visas, nor bribe their way by way of the mordida, literally the bite, now face 24,000 Border Patrol Agents, drones, a 650 mile long wall that is in many places more than 20 feet high, sophisticated camera and sensor systems, and excruciating death from heat exhaustion.  Last year 463 illegal immigrants died just trying to illegally cross the Mexican border

A good part of this discrimination is the legacy of IRCA and the unwillingness of our national politicians to tackle a massive problem that simply will not go away.  Since President W. Bush was close to a labor management deal just before the events of 9/11, federal immigration initiatives have been few and far between.  One result of this federal lethargy is that state legislatures eventually moved into the political void.  But local politicians’ slew of legal answers to broken federal policy, beginning in Arizona and quickly spreading to both other border and non-border states, did little but further damage our weak economy and generate even more stereotypes about recent immigrants.

It is the so-called Dreamers, the children of illegal immigrants, who best seized the imagination of many Americans by simply revealing the core humanity of their lives in their new country.  Risking immediate deportation by identifying themselves as illegal, these sons and daughters of immigrants-who never themselves chose to immigrate-bravely began telling their individual stories to anyone who would listen.  Frequently crossing the border before they reached the age of ten, these children criminalized worked hard in public school to learn English and get good grades but then, after graduating from high school, ran squarely into a wall as thick as any concrete border buttress.  Coming out of the shadows en masse, all that these children of illegal immigrants asked for was a chance to continue to work hard and to build a secure, safe, and legal life in a place far different than their country of origin.

The story of the Dreamers, and the Obama’s presidential mandate allowing them to legally remain two years within our borders, is a story that most Americans found not just credible but compelling.  Again, unless you are a Native American or brought here as a slave, how could the personal stories of Dreamers not undermine the stereotypical sludge thrown at this generation of new immigrants? Dreamers were able to humanize the impact of bad federal immigration legislation and, in so doing, demonstrate that IRCA excelled at wasting human lives in a country whose history is filled by achievements of immigrants from Albert Einstein to Arnold Schwarzenegger.

As a nation of immigrants we should be proud of this legacy of achievements and contributions.  Next month when the Senate debates immigration reform, let us constantly remind our elected politicians of their responsibility to negotiate new immigration laws finally bringing sanity and fairness to all Americans and, as well, to those who would choose to become new Americans.


Posted in Immigration

Seguridad en la Frontera: ¿Habrá sido real la balacera que mato a 40 en la Frontera de México?

Por Lee Maril (Traducido por Juan F. López)

Parece ser que solamente en la imaginación de los políticos en Washington es donde la violencia por el tráfico de drogas termina en la frontera de México. Un ejemplo: reporteros mexicanos, por miedo a perder sus vidas y temor por la seguridad de sus familiares, se han convertido cada vez más reacios a dar cobertura a la violencia y caos causado por los carteles de drogas.  Lo que ha ocurrido en meses recientes es que reporteros americanos en las ciudades de la frontera americana también hayan parado de reportar sobre la violencia relacionada a los carteles de drogas por las mismas razones que sus contrapartes mexicanas.

Mientras diferentes comités en el Senado y la Casa de Representantes continúan negociando las nuevas legislaciones de inmigración, el domingo, 10 de marzo, hubo una masacre en Reynosa, la cual debería darles un sentido de pausa a todos, incluyendo los más acérrimos defensores que dicen que la frontera mexicana es “segura”.    Reynosa es la ciudad gemela en la frontera de McAllen en el sur de Texas.

Ildefonso Ortiz reporto en el Brownsville Herald el 11 de marzo del 2013 que, “Miedo y pánico han llenado las calles de Reynosa el domingo en la noche cuando personas armadas batallaron durante una balacera de tres horas que vio armas automáticas  y granadas ser usadas”.  De acuerdo al mismo reportero, “Sorpresivamente, la autoridades mexicanas estuvieron ausente por la mayor parte del melé.”

Una fuente sobre la misma historia, un “oficial de la ley de Tamaulipas”, asegura que más de tres docenas de hombres murieron en la balacera y que es posible que otros hayan sido matados pero los criminales envueltos recogieron los cadáveres de sus compañeros armados.

Por el contrario, la Oficina de Procuraduría de Tamaulipas, de acuerdo a la misma historia, declaró que dos inocentes murieron el domingo y otro tuvo heridas.  También declaró que siete miembros del cartel fueron arrestados junto a veintidós vehículos que estuvieron involucrados en la balacera.

Mientras hay un número de blogueros que aparentan validar el alto número de muertos de Reynosa, absolutamente no hay ninguna historia al día de hoy en los diarios mexicanos u otros medios cual de credibilidad a este evento.  En los medios americanos solo hay un reporte de Ildefonso Ortiz.  Y nada más.  El público es dejado a seleccionar su historia:  murieron dos espectadores y un tercero fue herido durante el incidente en Reynosa o la escala de la violencia relacionada a las drogas en esta ciudad de la frontera se parece a la guerra de Siria.

La ausencia de reportajes completos y con credibilidad en los medios mexicanos no es inusual.  Por años los narcotraficantes han matados a muchos y todos los reporteros mexicanos que han reportado honestamente sobre el alcance y profundidad de la violencia de los carteles de drogas y su influencia en la sociedad mexicana.  El resultado final es que pocos reporteros mexicanos se sienten seguros de reportar lo que ocurrió el pasado domingo en la noche por miedo de sus vidas y las de sus familiares.  Más de un reportero de Reynosa se ha mudado a McAllen por razones de seguridad.

Pero lo que ha ocurrido en meses recientes es que reporteros americanos localizados en ciudades de la frontera americana también han dejado de reportar sobre la violencia relacionada a los carteles de drogas por las mismas razones que sus contrapartes.  Los reporteros americanos han parado de cruzar la frontera a ciudades como Reynosa por miedo a perder sus vidas en México y de la misma manera, cuando regresan al lado de la frontera americana.  La violencia por el tráfico de drogas para en la frontera mexicana, al parecer, en la imaginación de los políticos en Washington.

Ausentes también, han sido los reporteros regionales y nacionales que por alguna razón han decidido no reportar lo que sucedió la noche del domingo en Reynosa.  En ningún lugar del New York Times o del Washington Post, por ejemplo, aparece alguna mención de esta historia.  Los medios electrónicos han sido igual de silenciosos.

El resultado final de la casi completa ausencia de reporteros profesionales, mexicanos y americanos, es que lo que sea que haya ocurrido el pasado domingo en Reynosa ha sido, hasta el día de hoy, perdido para la conciencia humana y la memoria… como si no hubiese ocurrido.  Lo único que tenemos, aparte de la única historia por el reportero Ildefonso Ortiz, es una serie al azar de historias de blogueros, las cuales su confiabilidad siempre se cuestiona.  A la misma vez que la Seguridad de la Frontera ha subcontratado un métrica para que al fin y al cabo mida cuan “seguro” es nuestra frontera del sur con México, la realidad en la tierra sigue desafiando la lógica como la conocemos.  ¿Cómo puede alguna medida de seguridad, sin importar cuán decorado y matemáticamente complejo es, medir certeramente lo que está ocurriendo en la frontera cuando no hay,  por la casi completa ausencia de los medio profesionales, manera de separar los hechos de la ficción?

¿Que realmente sucedió el pasado domingo en Reynosa?  ¿Fue una masacre más allá de la imaginación o simplemente la muerte de dos espectadores?

Lo que haya pasado, importa.  Y nuestros políticos de ambos partidos deben considerar este vacío real de la verdad cuando escriben, negocian y debaten las nuevas legislaciones para arreglar nuestro quebrado sistema de inmigración.

Posted in Drug Cartels, En Espanol (Spanish Translations)

Mexican Border Deaths are a National Disgrace

The Border Patrol reported last week that 477 immigrants died attempting to gain illegal entry along our Mexican border.  According to the Border Patrol, this is a 27% increase over the preceding year.

Although fewer undocumented immigrants are seeking entry along our southern border, they have been strategically funneled to the “easiest” places to cross.  A number of traditional crossing areas have been fortified, sophisticated technology put in place to surveil potential crossers, and additional agents reassigned to the sectors.  In this and other ways illegal immigrant flows are directed to specific border areas including the Lower Rio Grande Valley of  south Texas.

The Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas saw the highest rise in immigrant fatalities according to the Border Patrol.  Individuals die in the Valley primarily because of heat exhaustion.  Frequently left to fend for themselves by their coyotes, they suffer from the heat and lack of water.  The same may be said for the region around Nogales where even those with enough water may die within 48 hours of exposure to the heat.  Particularly vulnerable are the elderly and children.

The Border Patrol statistics are an under-count of all those who annually die while trying to illegally cross our Mexican border.  All bodies or remains of bodies are not found for a variety of reasons including wild animals spreading the bones of the dead far from known trails.  Troubling also is the collection of these data are not meticulously gathered by an outside, independent agency with no self-interest in keeping the numbers low.

To its credit, the Border Patrol rescues hundreds of immigrants each year.  For this it should be commended but, at the same time, more resources must be devoted to saving lives along the borderline.

Although people keep dying along our southern border, is no one to blame?  For more than fifteen years, since data were first collected, more than 6,000 individuals have died while crossing the border.  We can do much better than this.  While our politicians negotiate new immigration laws, we can greatly reduce the number of deaths along our border if we demand more resources to save lives.

Every one of these deaths is a national disgrace that no American should tolerate.

Posted in Customs and Border Protection, Uncategorized

Was Reynosa Massacre Real?

According to the McAllen Monitor as reported by Ildefonso Ortiz on 3/11/13, “Fear and panic filled the streets of Reynosa on Sunday night as rival gunmen battled during a three-hour firefight that saw automatic weapons and grenades used.” According to this same reporter, “Surprisingly, Mexican authorities were absent for most of the melee.”

A source for this same story, a “Tamaulipas law enforcement official,” claims that more than three dozen men were killed in the shootout and that it is possible others were killed but the criminals involved retrieved the bodies of their fellow gunmen.

In sharp contrast, the Tamaulipas Attorney General’s Office, according to this same story, stated that two bystanders were killed Sunday night and one other person injured.  It also stated that seven cartel members were arrested along with 22 vehicles involved in the shootout.

The public is left to pick their story: either two bystanders were killed and a third injured during this incident in Reynosa, or the scale of the drug-related violence in this border city resembled the Syrian war.

The absence of full and creditable reporting in the Mexican media is not unusual.  For years the narco-trafficantes have been killing any and all Mexican journalists who report honestly about the scope and depth of the violence of the drug cartels and their influence throughout all of Mexican society.  The end result is that there are few Mexican journalists who feel secure enough to report on last Sunday night in Reynosa for fear of their own lives and the lives of their family members.  More than one Reynosa journalist has relocated to McAllen for reasons of safety.

Absent, too, are our own regional and national journalists who have, for whatever reasons, chosen not to report on whatever happened Sunday night in Reynosa.  Nowhere in the New York Times or the Washington Post, for instance, is there any mention of this story.  The electronic media have been just as silent.

The end result of the almost complete absence of professional journalists, both Mexican and American, is that whatever happened in Reynosa last Sunday night is, at least to date, lost to human conscience and memory…as if it never happened.   What we are left with, aside from the one story by reporter Ildefonso Ortiz, is a random series of eyewitness accounts by bloggers, the reliability of which always is in question.

What really happened last Sunday night in Reynosa?  Was it a massacre beyond the imagination or simply the random deaths of two bystanders?

What happened, whatever it was, matters.

Posted in Drug Cartels

Massacre in Reynosa?

Last Sunday night several different South Texas sources reported that there was a massive gunfight in various parts of Reynosa, directly across from McAllen, Texas.  As many as 40 or more deaths were reported, according to the Brownsville Herald.

If this is true, and the facts still remain very questionable, there are several grave concerns.  First and foremost, the Mexican media is again being completely stifled, as has been the case for the last several years.  Second, our own national media seem more than reluctant to report on drug-related border violence.  This is especially the case when the deaths occur along a U.S.-Mexico border which, according to Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, is “secure”.

If this bloody battle did occur in Reynosa on Sunday night, censorship in both Mexican and American media signal a new low in reporting on drug cartel violence.  It also raises a number of other border policy issues that our national media seem reluctant to discuss.

Posted in Border Security

Lecciones Aprendidas: Cheech y Chong en la brecha de seguridad en Y-12

Por Lee Maril (Traducido por Juan F. López)

El 28 de julio del 2012, una monja de de 82 años de edad y sus dos cómplices – ambos personas de la tercera edad – irrumpieron en el cacareado y supuestamente impenetrable  sistema de perímetro de protección del Complejo Nacional de Seguridad Y-12 en Oak Ridge, donde uranio para armas nucleares es guardado y procesado (el complejo Y-12 no está afiliado con los Laboratorios Nacionales de Oak Ridge (ORNL por sus siglas en ingles); un reporte del incidente por el Inspector General del Departamento de Energía está lleno de jerga burocrática, pero este revela que el sistema de seguridad en Y-12 y sus prácticas son peor que el papel  que Cheech y Chong hubiesen podido hacer en sus rutinas de comedias más locas o en alguna de sus películas chifladas.

La brecha de seguridad en Y-12 es peor que el papel  que Cheech y Chong hubiesen podido hacer en sus rutinas de comedias más locas o en alguna de sus películas chifladas llenas de sátira e ironía sobre la condición humana.  Por un lado, el publico esta informado ( ) que el Complejo Nacional de Seguridad Y-12 en Oak Ridge, Tennessee, tiene “unos mecanismos de seguridad extensivos que dependen en una fuerza protectora bien entrenada y extensamente equipada, tecnología avanzada, y una variedad de fortificaciones físicas” a un costo de $150 millones en este año solamente.  Este precio anual presuntamente va dirigido para proteger y asegurar  la seguridad de esta vital instalación nuclear.

Por otro lado, cuando una monja de 82 años y dos amigos de ellas que son de la tercera edad irrumpieron durante la madrugada del 28 de junio en Y-12, que procesa y guarda uranio,  se toparon con las personificaciones de Cheech y Chong en todas las “capas” de este elaborado sistema de seguridad.  La Hermana Megan Rice y sus dos cómplices,  Michael Walli y Greg Boertje-Obed, fueron arrestados cuando literalmente llamaron a un guardia que estaba pasando, de la misma manera en que los Neoyorkinos  llaman a un taxista reluctante.  Un guardia de Y-12 fracaso en sacar su arma y aun dejo que los tres sospechosos recogieran sus bultos hasta que decidió en llamar al equipo de respaldo (El Complejo Nacional de Seguridad Y-12 es una de las cuatro instalaciones de la Administración Nacional de Seguridad Nuclear en las Empresas de Seguridad Nuclear en Oak Ridge;  no está afiliada con los Laboratorios Nacionales Oak Ridge [ORNL por sus siglas en ingles].   La brecha ocurrió el 28 de julio en el complejo Y-12, no en ORNL.)

Este trío de intrusos están actualmente acusados de un crimen, destrucción maliciosa de propiedad, y traspaso, un delito menor.  Incluido en los cargos del crimen están el haber pintado en uno de los edificios de Y-12 el lema “woe to the empire of blood” (Ay del imperio de la sangre) y “the fruit of justice is peace” (el fruto de la justicia es la paz). (AP, New charges filed in nuclear plant breach, )

Pero el resultado de esta farsa de seguridad pudo haber sido increíblemente triste si la monja y sus dos amigos hubiesen sido terroristas profesionales.

Ahora hay un nuevo reporte en el cual Gregory H.Friedman, Inspector General del Departamento de Energia, investiga el incidente. (A Special Report: Inquiry into the Security Breach at the National Nuclear Administration’s Y-12 National Security Complex, )

Después que en su revision el Inspector General Friedman “… condujo entrevistas con oficiales Federales y contratistas, personal de seguridad, y los operadores de alarmas en las estaciones” y luego leyendo “información pertinente a la secuencia de eventos sobre la brecha”,  el cacareado sistema de seguridad parece como si hubiese sido construido desde cero por Cheech y Chong.  Y mantenido, operado y escribieron los reportes donde se proyectaban como más grande de la realidad.  Los mismos Cheeches y Chongs estuvieron literalmente dormidos en el volante en la madrugada el día que la Hermana Megan y sus confederados irrumpieron a través de un sinnúmero de  capas de seguridad en el cual la pagina web de Y-12 describe como “… la seguridad más rigurosa del mundo”.

Este reporte resume que, “… nosotros identificamos muestras de ineptitud problemáticas en cuanto a las reacciones hacia las alarmas, fallas, mantenimiento de sistema de seguridad critico, sobre dependencia en medidas compensatorias, malentendidos de protocolos de seguridad, y debilidades en contratos y manejo de recursos.  La gobernanza de contratos y el descuido Federal han fallado en identificar y corregir indicadores primarios de estas múltiples fallas del sistema”.

Pero esto es solo la punta de esta pesadilla/farsa de seguridad en el cual la culpa ha sido puesta inicialmente en los menos responsables, los guardias.  Gradualmente y de mala gana, el reporte, usando confusión interminable burocrática, jerga y  una variedad de voz pasiva, documentan que la responsabilidad recae también en el gerente de la instalación, el gerente de los contratistas, un subsidiario de Babcock and Wilcox, y los varios niveles de burocracia federal los cuales continúan ignorando los serios problemas de seguridad  a pesar que el sistema de seguridad esta, por lo menos de acuerdo a lo que está escrito, repleto de enormes recursos fiscales.

Yo debo admitir que en mi columna previa en HSNW (, basado en los hechos en aquel momento sobre este caso (ver William J. Broad, “The Nun Who Broke Into the Nuclear Sanctum,”  New York Times, 11 August 2012, p. 1A; y AP’s Erik Schelzig, “New Charges Filed in Nuclear Weapons Plant Breach,” Yahoo!News, 9 August 2012), yo subestime gravemente el nivel de incompetencia de seguridad y mal manejo en Y-12.

Lo que tenemos en este reporte altamente esterilizado y revisado auto-reporte – después de la jerga y las racionalizaciones y justificaciones han sido barridas – es más o menos la siguiente lista de circunstancias problemáticas:

1-    Las cámaras de seguridad no funcionaron porque estaban dañadas desde hace semanas o meses y no existió una directriz de darle mantenimiento cuando este inoperables.

2-    Los tres sospechosos tuvieron que entregarse debido a que después de tres horas ni un guardia en Y-12 sabia que ellos habían irrumpidos a través de tres verjas de seguridad, cámaras y otros aparatos de seguridad.

3-    En adición al equipo de seguridad identificado, también había otro equipo clasificado que tampoco funciono o no se la había proveído el mantenimiento necesario.

4-    El contratista de seguridad, quien es un subsidiario de una corporación que construyo el equipo de seguridad, está acusado por un gran número de lapsos de seguridad y un “pleito” en su contra ha sido iniciado.

5-    Descuido Federal, el llamado “modelo de gobernanza”, fallo en múltiples niveles, incluyendo, auto-reportes caracterizando los sistemas de seguridad como satisfactorios a pesar de que habían serios problemas de comunicación en este “modelo de gobernanza” y entre este “modelo” y la gerencia de contratistas.

6-    Un tipo de cámaras de vigilancia utilizado no era apropiado para esta tarea de seguridad particular, pero este problema corriente nunca fue rectificado.

El reporte provee ocho maneras diferentes en las cuales acciones adicionales debieron ser tomadas, desde verificar que el equipo de seguridad en Y-12 sea “reparada y operacional” hasta un “reporte de lecciones aprendidas” que va a ser compartida en todo Y-12.  ¿“Lecciones aprendidas?”

Mientras guardias específicos, supervisores y gerentes de la instalación han sido despedidos, ¿qué hay con el tan cacareado “modelo de gobernanza” que fue implementado en Y-12?  Este “modelo de gobernanza”, la gerencia habla en nombre de todos los oficiales – ninguno es nombrado – comparten una responsabilidad por la alucinante revelación de desastre de seguridad en progreso.

La semana pasada marco el undécimo aniversario de los eventos de septiembre 11, eventos cuales desencadenaron una inversión significativa en nuestra seguridad nacional. Este reporte por el Inspector General del Departamento de Energía sugiere que mientras ha habido muchos logros a través de la nación, todavía existen impresionantes lapsos en Y-12 que tiene que ser examinados de cerca no solamente por los oficiales federales que están a cargo, sino también por el Congreso.  Al final, este reporte problemático documenta la necesidad de continuar haciendo preguntas  de por qué y cómo una  cultura de Cheech and Chong ha prevalecido en Y-12 hasta el 28 de julio del 2012.  En contraste con los estándares establecidos por el “modelo de gobernanza” en Y-12, un manejo gerencial que ha fracasado miserablemente, el sistema de Y-12 debe ser arreglado no solo en un papel burocrático, pero también en realidad.  La seguridad de nuestra nación requiere esto.

Posted in En Espanol (Spanish Translations)

Not Again: Is the New Border Sensor Program Also a Boondoggle?

Last week it was reported that the Department of Homeland Security stated that advanced border ground sensors would not be produced until “…the next six to nine months” (Robert Beckhusen, “Homeland Security Delays Plan to Place Sensors on U.S.-Mexico Border”, Wired, 11 February 2013). The program to produce these sensors has not been “cancelled” but “delayed” because of problems, according to DHS, with integrating the ground sensors into the Border Patrol’s current communication system.

Other recent failed security technology which never passed muster along our Mexican border includes the SBInet “virtual wall” contracted to Boeing at a cost of more than $1 billion, along with the “advanced spectroscopic portal” operated by Raytheon for more than $200 million. After many long years, each of these programs was finally declared a failure by DHS and abandoned, but not before all taxpayers’ money allotted them was spent.

In light of the fact that our United States Army has successfully deployed thousands of sophisticated ground sensors in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is reasonable to question the competency of the CBP and DHS sensor program.  According to one report, the sensor program has been delayed because of budget cuts and because it lacks the staff to properly oversee the contract.

What remains unclear about the current development of sensors for our Mexican border is how much money has been wasted and who has wasted it.  And why, of equal importance, the CBP and DHS chose or did not choose to put in place the U.S. Army’s proven sensors rather than developing its own high-tech version.

The cost of this apparent boondoggle is not just measured in taxpayer dollars, but the damage to our nation’s welfare and national security by all those who illegally entered this country because our border sensor system cannot distinguish between a human and a cow.  Add to this the  very real concern that Border Patrol agents in their dangerous work continue to risk their lives while waiting for a no-show high tech sensor system which the Border Patrol promises will be ready in, “…six to nine months.”

The time is long past for a border sensor system that works effectively.  Those who bear the responsibility for this decades-long boondoggle should be investigated and punished accordingly.  The United States Border Patrol and the Department of Homeland Security have far too important a task than to waste our tax dollars on yet another failed technology in the making: first we had the “virtual wall” which did not work; then the “spectroscopic portal program” based upon bad physics; and now the no-show high-tech border sensors.

Three strikes and, at the very least, you should be out.

Posted in Border Security

Napolitano Declares El Paso Border Is Safe

Yesterday Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano declared the border at El Paso safe.  She relied on the statistics provided to her by Customs and Border Patrol as well as a national survey ranking El Paso as the “safest big city”.

There is little doubt that, on top of the recession, far fewer undocumented workers are illegally attempting to enter our country by way of the Mexican border.  CBP statistics over the last five years show a marked decline explained at least in part by an huge increase in the number of agents patrolling the line, a new border wall erected in strategic places along the border, and the increased use of surveillance drones.

However, there are at least two factors that went unmentioned at Secretary Napolitano’s press conference in El Paso.  The first is that illegal drugs are continuing to be smuggled into this country by Mexican drug cartels.  The vital indicator of their smuggling success is the price that drug users must pay in our cities far from the border.  That price, regardless of increased confiscation of illegal drugs, remains stable suggesting that while undocumented immigrants find it more difficult to illegally cross our border with Mexico, the crime syndicates have not been deterred.

Secondly, El Paso and San Diego may be the first and second safest big cities in our country, but human smuggling thrives is other areas all along the 2,000 miles of Mexican border.  No doubt Secretary Napolitano can visit selected border cities all she wants to make claims of security and safety, but she should also visit the Lower Rio Grande Valley of South Texas along with various communities in New Mexico and Arizona.  These towns, in contrast to El Paso and San Diego, are dangerous places in which to reside.

In spite of Secretary Napolitano’s assertions yesterday, the Mexican border is far from secure for residents not residing in El Paso or San Diego.  Secretary Napolitano’s statements about border security are not only misleading, but suggest to the general public that current Congressional efforts at immigration reform need no include increased funds for the safety and security of border residents.  Such funds, contrary to Secretary Napolitano’s security declarations, are in fact vital and necessary.

Posted in Border Security

Special House Group Revealed on Immigration Bill

The New York Times reported yesterday that there is a bipartisan group of House Congresspersons working on an immigration bill.  The special bipartisan group is composed of Representatives Gutierrez, Becerra, Lofgren, Yarmuth, Carter, Diaz-Balart, Johnson, and Labrador.  The group, which represents a wide spectrum of viewpoints in both political parties, has been meeting in secret for more than three years.  Their goal is to pass new immigration reform before Congress recesses in August.

Add this to a group of Senators who recently proposed in four pages their basic requirements for new immigration legislation.  At the same time President Obama is getting ready his own legislation in case Congress falters.

In the meantime those opposed to reform of the antiquated Immigration and Reform Act of 1986 seem intent on focusing the public on minute details rather than the principle points proposed by legislators.  And there are going to be lots and lots of details.

But the bottom line in the immigration debate, a debate intentionally tabled by both parties since 2006, is that our present immigration system has been badly broken for a very long time.  On this all seem to agree.

We need to be very vigilant, however, that the growing debate, which is sure to become more impassioned as time goes by, does not get bogged down in the endless minutia, but rather maintains a focus on the need for real and fair reform.  That means compromise and that means President Obama must provide leadership as the national debate heats up.

We should all demand an immigration system that is fair, efficient, and supportive of our national economy.

Posted in Immigration