Friday, March 18, 2016

‘We think they got the message’

After ranchers came out in force last week to voice concerns about border security, New Mexico’s political representatives in Washington say they are pushing for changes in strategy on everything from patrols to hiring, and deploying more boots on the border. About 600 people, residents and ranchers, packed a school meeting room in Animas last Thursday to express their concerns about the lack of security at the border. The New Mexico delegation is proposing, by turn, changes in hiring procedure that could attract more locals to Border Patrol ranks; hardship pay for agents who agree to work the remote region; more horses to get mounted agents into rugged terrain beyond the reach of pickups and ATVs; and putting more agents on the borderline, not dozens of miles inland. One proposal would also shift more National Guard drug interdiction resources to the New Mexico border. “We think they got the message,” said Caren Cowan, executive director of the Albuquerque-based New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association. “I think the jury is still out on how we move forward. I think we stirred some attention, but it is way too soon to see if we will get what we need.” The U.S.-Mexico border in New Mexico’s Bootheel runs east from the Arizona state line, then turns north – 86 miles of border and hundreds of square miles of inhospitable, mountainous desert country where drug traffickers have lately found a profitable route north...more

The article quotes Tom Udall as saying the Border Patrol needs "more staff and resources – including incentives to help retain agents at the Lordsburg station and additional horses, ATVs and other equipment appropriate for patrolling in very remote, rugged territory.”  Udall sits on the Appropriations Committee, so we'll be watching to see if he does, indeed, make it a priority.

Heinrich is quoted "...we need to invest more in retention incentives and specialty units in order to forward deploy more agents" and uses the occasion for a partisan shot, saying the failed 2013 immigration reform bill would have provided "$8 billion for additional fencing and $30 billion to add 20,000 Border Patrol agents and more than double the force."

Well, that's not what I heard from the participants.  They did ask why the BP was getting cuts while the endangered species act was seeing an increase.  It wasn't about incentives, retention or more agents.  The presenters were unanimous in requesting the existing BP officers be deployed on the border, not many miles north of the borderline.   The only pol who addressed this was Pearce.

From the article:

Pearce said agents need to be better deployed closer to the borderline, one of the ranchers’ key demands. “You must get the boots down on the border,” he said. “This idea of patrolling 60 to 70 miles off the border is one that simply says that if you live between where we put our vehicles and the border, then you are expendable. We had to contend with the Bush administration on this, as much as the Obama administration. That is an ongoing, long battle that we are in.”

Also hanging over these folks and law enforcement are the seven proposed Wilderness Areas totaling 145,000 acres right there in the boot heel or close by on the border.  Udall & Heinrich have introduced legislation to designate border Wilderness in Dona Ana County. When that legislation failed to move they successfully pushed Obama to designate a huge National Monument. Will they do the same in Luna & Hidalgo Counties, further hamstringing the BP and other law enforcement?  Or will they instead support Pearce's H.R. 3478, the Luna and Hidalgo Counties Wilderness Study Area Release Act of 2015, returning these lands to multiple use and therefore providing reasonable access to the Border Patrol?

For an excellent way to understand why this meeting was organized and what it is like to ranch on the border, listen to this KQTH interview with Erica Valdez.

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