An Arizona sheriff told a congressional hearing Tuesday that the increase of criminal aliens coming across the border is the greatest homeland security threat facing America.
Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever, testifying before the Senate Homeland Security and Border Affairs Committee, said that 17% of people crossing the boarder near Tucson have a criminal record in the United States.
“The bad guys keep coming, and no matter whether the apprehension rates rise or fall, the numbers of criminal aliens rise,” Dever said. “That, sir, is the threat to our homeland security in this country.”
Dever told HUMAN EVENTS he supports a new immigration reform measure proposed by Arizona Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl and as well as a tough immigration bill passed by the Arizona legislature on Monday. The McCain-Kyl proposal would send National Guard troops to the border, which Dever says he has been begging for for years. Dever also supports an increase in Border Patrol agents along the border.
Dever said he asked if bringing National Guard troops to the border was still on the table during a face-to-face meeting with former Arizona governor and current Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano last year. She told him she was working on the logistics and would have an answer within three weeks. Dever said the nearly year-long delay lies more with the President and the White House than Napolitano.
During the hearing, McCain questioned Alan Bersin, commissioner of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency, about resources being allocated to border security. In his opening statement, McCain said the President’s budget for 2010 sought to cut 181 Border Patrol agents.
Bersin, while admitting violence has increased along the border, said the number of Border Patrol agents will stay the same from this year to next year.
“So if violence is increasing, Border Patrol agents remain level,” McCain said.
Bersin responded saying border security strategy is a combination of technology, infrastructure, and agents along the border. However, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I.-Conn.), who chairs the committee, said that some of the technology that was supposed to be implemented has been unsuccessful.
All three witnesses on the second panel — Dever, Dennis Burke, the U.S. attorney for the District of Arizona, and Octavio Garcia-Von Borstel, the mayor of Nogales, Ariz. — agreed that the situation on the border is worse than it was a year ago when the committee held a field hearing in Arizona. However, Burke said some of the steps taken along the border may have also led to the increase in violence, since criminal organizations may be feeling the squeeze as their routes become limited.
Bersin said that the agency deployed additional agents to the area where Arizona rancher Robert Krentz was recently murdered.
Dever gave an update on the investigation into the murder of Krentz, killed last month on his own property. He said the murder was so “senseless” that it brought the head detective on the case to tears.
There was some back and forth at the hearing over whether the murderer was in fact an illegal alien or drug smuggler, with Bersin pointing out that the investigation continues as to whether Krentz’s murderer was connected with a smuggling outfit.
Dever said there is reason to believe the murderer was a scout for a drug smuggling organization. He said smugglers were often better equipped than the law enforcement.
“It’s a thirty-five thousand acre remote cattle ranch,” Dever said. “There’s jack rabbits, rattlesnakes, a few cattle grazing on that barren pasture, illegal aliens, and drug smugglers out there, and that’s it. This wasn’t somebody walking to Wal-Mart to go shoplift something.”