WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall, along with Representative Harry Teague, today pressed the Department of Homeland Security to step-up the Border Patrol’s presence in New Mexico’s boot heel. The area is about 10 miles from an Arizona ranch where a rancher was killed over the weekend.
The New Mexico lawmakers pointed out that the number of Border Patrol agents stationed along our borders has reached a record high of 20,000, which has helped strengthen security along the U.S.-Mexico border. Additionally, DHS is constructing a new Border Patrol station in Lordsburg.
But as drug trafficking gangs continue to threaten security in the U.S.-Mexico border region, the New Mexico lawmakers urged DHS to take further security steps. In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Bingaman, Udall and Teague urged the establishment of a Border Patrol forward operating base in the boot heel. Forward operating bases are outposts that allow agents to patrol closer to the international border.
The lawmakers letter to Napolitano follows:
We are writing to urge the Department of Homeland Security to establish a Border Patrol Forward Operating Base (FOB) in the New Mexico boot heel. We strongly believe that this step would greatly enhance our security posture and help ensure the safety of border residents.
Although the Border Patrol force strength is now at a record 20,000 agents and the apprehension rate along the southern border is at the lowest level since the 1970s, it is clear that more still needs to be done to fully secure our nation’s borders. Just this last weekend, a rancher was murdered at his ranch in Arizona just across the New Mexico state line after he encountered a person on his property. While the specifics of this terrible incident are still being investigated, we are deeply concerned about the security threats border ranchers are facing and believe it is critical that DHS enhance its capabilities in this region.
The new Lordsburg Border Patrol station will significantly increase the capacity of the station to house and maintain additional agents in the area; however, establishing a FOB in the boot heel would allow agents to spend considerably more time patrolling in closer proximity to the actual border. The Lordsburg station is situated along the I-10 corridor and Border Patrol agents spend an unnecessary amount of their time driving back and forth to patrol areas within the boot heel. Locating a FOB in this area would reduce agent response times and enhance our ability to fight drug traffickers and apprehend individuals illegally crossing the border. For these reasons, we ask that DHS promptly begin the process of creating a Forward Operating Base in the Hidalgo County boot heel.
Thank you for your attention to this issue and for your leadership in working to secure our nation’s borders. We look forward to your response.
Harry Teague Calls for White House Summit on Border Violence
Note: This letter was sent after the murder of two Americans in Mexico, and prior to the killing of the Arizona rancher in the U.S.
Washington, DC - Saturday, Congressman Harry Teague announced that he is calling on President Barack Obama to convene a bipartisan White House summit focused on stemming the drug violence that has plagued the U.S. border with Mexico. The meeting would aim to build a policy to address this crisis, ensure that the violence does not spill over into the United States, and help us get back to work building our border economies.
"There is no easy solution to the violence that has resulted in thousands of drug and gang-related deaths in these border communities. Nor is there a simple way to make absolutely sure that we can prevent the chaos from spilling over into this country," Congressman Harry Teague writes in the letter. “However, we believe that the only way to begin to address the violence at our border and protect our country is to organize a concerted and comprehensive effort that addresses every cause of the violence and every threat posed to the American people."
This past week, Congressman Teague, Vice-Chair of the U.S. House Border Caucus, and several other members of the Caucus met with Mexican Ambassador, Arturo Sarukhán, this week to discuss recent events, including the murders of two American citizens in Ciudad Juarez last week.
The full text of the letter is below:
March 19th, 2010
Dear Mr. President:
The recent murders of two American citizens and a Mexican national connected to the U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juarez serve as a tragic reminder of the potential threat posed to our nation by the tidal wave of violence that has inundated Mexico’s northern border region. Over the past three years, as the violence has raged in Mexico, legitimate economic activity has deteriorated, the fabric of society has been torn apart, and an estimated 15,000 people have been murdered, often brutally so. Thus far, the violence has largely been limited to Mexican territory. However, it is reasonable to question how long such a level of violence, dysfunction, and disorder can be sustained on one side of our 2,000 mile border without millions of Americans eventually feeling its effect.
According to the 2008 National Drug Threat Assessment, “the Southwest Border Region is the most significant national-level storage, transportation, and transshipment area for illicit drug shipments that are destined for drug markets throughout the United States.” Further, “the region is the principal arrival zone for most drugs smuggled into the Unites States,” and “Mexican [drug trafficking organizations] have developed sophisticated and expansive drug transportation networks extending from the Southwest Border to all regions of the United States.” Given the penetration into American territory that Mexican drug cartels have achieved and the cartels’ investments in U.S. drug shipment networks, we must take seriously the possibility that Mexican drug violence could spill over into American communities.
There is no easy solution to the violence that has ripped apart Mexican communities and left thousands dead. Nor is there a simple way to make absolutely sure that we can prevent the chaos from spilling over into this country. However, we believe that the only way to begin to address the violence at our border and protect our country is to organize a concerted and comprehensive effort that addresses every cause of the violence and every threat posed to the American people.
Therefore, we request that you organize a White House Summit to address the threat of Mexican drug violence. Such a Summit can provide the basis for a policy blueprint to address this crisis so we can ensure that the violence does not spill over into the United States and get back to work growing our border economies.
Thank you for your service to this nation.
Member of Congress