Congressional testimony from federal and state law enforcement officials, Department of Justice representatives and border residents Wednesday reaffirmed the deteriorating conditions along the Southern border, and will play an important role in the pending border security and immigration reform debate in the U.S. Senate.
The hearing comes on the heels of the well-publicized encounter in Texas between law enforcement officers and organized drug dealers. Capturing this incident on videotape allowed everyone to see the dangers associated with the federal government’s continued failure to control our borders.
While this highly publicized encounter brought attention to the problem, border violence has long plagued federal and state law enforcement officers. In addition to this recent incident, law enforcement officers along the border routinely seize guns, ammunition, drugs and illegal aliens. In addition, Border Patrol agents face hundreds of assaults each year. These range from shootings, to rock throwing, to attempts to run them over with vehicles.
During the hearing, particularly graphic photos were displayed, depicting a law enforcement officer’s car that had been struck by a “Molotov rock” — a rock wrapped in cloth, soaked in flammable liquid, set fire and thrown through the windshield of his vehicle. Other photos showed bloodied agents who had been struck with rocks or other weapons. Evidence presented at the hearing included the x-rays results of a badly wounded officer who requires intensive physical therapy before he can return to work.
Unfortunately, however, this danger is no longer limited to law enforcement personnel. A longtime Texas rancher who has lived and worked along the border for decades also offered his insight, describing how, as illegal immigration has increased, so too has the danger, threats and violence to ordinary citizens.
Life along the border has changed dramatically for residents, who now actually place food and water around the outside of their homes, in an effort to keep illegal aliens from breaking and entering, looking for supplies — or weapons. According to one witness, this is what the “Crime Stoppers” effort along the Southern border looks like today.
The current situation is unacceptable, and Congress must act to end it now.
Tenured state and federal law enforcement officers described strategies they believe will combat these problems. Chief among them were increased resources along the border — particularly more Border Patrol agents — as well as a viable temporary worker program that includes stringent worksite enforcement.
These proposals are included in the Cornyn/Kyl bill — the Comprehensive Enforcement and Immigration Reform Act of 2005 (S.1438) — which was introduced last summer.
This legislation tackles the problems of the broken immigration system on every front. It begins with increasing the most valuable asset: Border Patrol agents. It also provides for use of a “virtual fence” — or strategic barriers in high-traffic areas, combined with the use of up-to-date technology, such as UAVs and sensors. This legislation also streamlines deportation proceedings, requires foreign countries to do their part in combating illegal entry, and sanctions employers who hire illegal aliens.
There are no simple solutions to this issue — and a problem of this magnitude is certainly not solved with bumper sticker slogans. The United States shares almost 2,000 miles of border with Mexico, and roughly 4,000 miles with Canada. Texas alone accounts for the majority of the southern border, sharing about 1,285 miles or 65% of the Southern border. In 2004, the Border Patrol apprehended 1,139,000 aliens along the Southern border. In 2005, the number grew to 1,171,000. And this year, the number has already reached 408,000 — in only two months.
It is impossible to separate the increase in border violence and incursions from our broken immigration system. When half a million illegal aliens are able to come across the U.S. border each year — many of them undetected — it’s no wonder criminals and drug traffickers believe they are above the law.
Combating border violence will take a concerted and thoughtful effort by all parties involved. It is critical that the federal government use all of its resources to gain control of the border. Unless and until Congress addresses the immigration problem across the board, violence along the border will continue.