Written by intern Russ Doubleday
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano recently announced several new border protection initiatives in a renewed attempt to secure the Southwest border in Arizona. She laid out these strategies at a symposium sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies last Wednesday, June 23.
"No one is happy with the status quo [on immigration and the border]," Napolitano said. "I'm certainly not and neither is the president."
Napolitano stated that securing the border and enforcing the law are the responsibilities of the federal government. She repeatedly stressed throughout the symposium that federal immigration reform is necessary so fifty separate state immigration laws do not develop from federal inaction.
Napolitano claimed that the administration has placed more Border Patrol agents and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials on the border than any previous administration. All rail shipments going to Mexico are also being screened for any illegal materials for the first time. DHS has also built 646 of the 652 miles of fencing requested by Congress.
Overall, $500 million will be funneled into helping further secure the Southwest border and President Obama has already announced the deployment of an additional 1,200 National Guard troops. With this funding, DHS is planning several new measures to secure the border and fight Mexican drug cartels. A common theme will be establishing new relationships between local law enforcement and federal agencies.
State and local police along the border will sync their information systems with DHS and the Department of Justice to better track illegal activity. A suspicious activities reporting program will also be set up for communities in the Southwest, and urban areas will collaborate more often on threats.
DHS will be working with the Major Cities Chiefs Association to create a law enforcement compact among various police departments to aid officers along the border. DHS will also work with the Office of National Drug Control Policy to establish Project Roadrunner, which will be an automated license plate recognition system working to snuff out the drug trade on the border.
The troop increases will target cartel operations, specifically in the Tucson region. ICE agents will work with local law enforcement to arrest convicted illegal aliens.
DHS, in agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration, will also begin flying unmanned aerial surveillance drones over the border in Texas.
"The policies and resources we have put in place, at the border and in the interior, constitute the most serious and thorough immigration and border-related effort ever," Napolitano concluded.
Joining Napolitano on the panel was included ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton, Customs and Border Protection Deputy Commissioner David Aguilar, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy Gil Kerlikowske, and Robert L. Davis, Chief of Police for San Jose, Calif., and the President of the Major Cities Chiefs Association.