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Conserative Spotlight: American Border Patrol

“Here’s the law. Here’s the line. What’s the problem?”

Glenn Spencer has big plans for his American Border Patrol organization in 2005, including a new home, better monitoring of illegal aliens, and the hope that federal Border Patrol agents will benefit from the work he’s doing on the Arizona border with Mexico.

“Here on the border, the problem is simple,” said Spencer, the organization’s president who founded it in June 2002. “Here’s the law. Here’s the line. What’s the problem?”

Spencer’s active interest in immigration dates back to 1992, when he was a resident of California. But after living in California for 10 years–and growing increasingly frustrated with the state’s unwillingness to stem the flow of illegal aliens–Spencer decided he would get to the root of the problem by heading straight for the busiest illegal entry point along the border in Arizona.

The idea came in part from the work of Muriel Watson, the widow of a Border Patrol agent who had organized a group called Light Up the Border near San Diego. Hundreds of people drove their cars to border hotspots like Otay Mesa, Calif., at night and turned on their headlights, shedding light on the tattered state of border security.

Spencer went one step further. He wanted to shed light on the border, but do so on the Internet (www.AmericanPatrol.com) where people across the country could see the problem of illegal immigration live on their computers. He told Human Events his goal was to use technology as a means of exposing the problem, which would in turn spur efforts to fix it.

Spencer’s operation was based for two years in the southeastern Arizona community of Sierra Vista. But when his property association evicted him last year for running a business out of a residence–a federal judge ruled against Spencer–he moved farther south to Palominas, Ariz., where he has since expanded American Border Patrol.

The new headquarters is located on 18 acres of land, which a supporter of Spencer leased to him last year. He has since bought four acres, put up a manufactured home, built two runways for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and will soon be installing sensors to detect when illegal aliens cross the border. “This is going to multiply our effectiveness by a factor of 10,” Spencer told Human Events.

The location will also allow Spencer to concentrate his monitoring on a stretch of land between Naco, Ariz., and the Coronado National Memorial. Plans are in the works to install sensors in the corridor and monitor the crossing of illegal aliens with two existing UAVs and a soon-to-arrive third UAV. Spencer said he also hopes to upgrade the infrared camera used by American Border Patrol to increase detection at night.

Spencer’s goal is to improve performance by the U.S. Border Patrol, which he said does a poor job of catching illegal aliens and also assessing its success because it has no real means of monitoring the border. “We want to take a section of the border and be able to sample it statistically and actually see how many are getting past the Border Patrol,” Spencer said. “Our goal is to continue to reveal ways and means of evaluating, detecting and apprehending suspected border intruders.”

With a background in statistics and a lifelong interest in computer simulation, Spencer said he is optimistic that he will be able to come up with a useful measuring method for Border Patrol agents. In the late 1960s, he worked on a U.S. Navy project to reduce of the number of people stationed on guided missile destroyers without sacrificing operational efficiency. He said the U.S. Border Patrol faces a similar problem: It must maximize the effectiveness of its agents because they cannot keep up with the huge number of illegal border crossings.

Spencer estimates that, in its more than two years of existence, the American Border Patrol has helped agents apprehend 1,500 illegal aliens. Although he scoffs at U.S. immigration policy–he describes it as “catch and release” with no deterrent–Spencer said progress was being made, particularly among individual agents, whom he described as very appreciative of his work.

U.S. Border Patrol management has also adopted some of the same means of nabbing illegal aliens that Spencer first showcased. “We went out and essentially embarrassed them,” Spencer said. “Here was a little organization that showed the technology worked. The only reason the Border Patrol went to UAVs is that American Border Patrol shamed them into doing it.”

Spencer works with a team of four employees, plus volunteers who offer their services for missions. One employee, Jerry Deebach, builds the UAVs, and two others, Mike King and Mike Christie, help out with operations and also lead missions on the border. A fourth employee, Billie Parker, serves as an office administrator.

American Border Patrol may be reached at 13547 Ventura Blvd., Suite 163, Sherman Oaks, Calif., 91423 (phone 800-600-8642; www.AmericanPatrol.com).

Written By

Mr. Bluey, a contributing editor to Human Events, is director of the Center for Media & Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation. He maintains a blog at RobertBluey.com.

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