Thursday, May 12, 2016

‘Deep Disconnect’ between Washington DC Policymakers and Southwest Border Situation

By Amanda Vicinanzo

The House Homeland Security’s Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security held a field hearing on Monday to hear from local law enforcement officials, business and community leaders, ranchers and residents—those who must live with the ramifications of an unsecure border every day— on what they see as the real border security challenges facing the nation.

Chairwoman Martha McSally (R-AZ) said the testimony of several government officials from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at a hearing several weeks ago revealed “a deep disconnect” between how politicians and policymakers in Washington, DC view the current situation on the border versus what the actual situation is according to those who live and work on the border. 

...The southwest border remains a hub of cross-border illegal activity, with DHS apprehending over 331,000 illegal entrants, and making over 14,000 seizures of drugs in fiscal year 2015, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.

Today, in 2016, the entire border is controlled by Mexican drug cartels, according to Art Del Cueto, President, Local 2544, National Border Patrol Council. Cueto likened the situation on the border to a prison, saying drug cartels control the border similar to the way inmates control a prison.

“If there is one point that I want to make in this entire testimony it is that the money that the cartels earn from illegal alien smuggling underwrites the same organizations that are flooding our streets with narcotics,” Cueto emphasized. 

...Living in a border town can be dangerous. Frank Krentz, an Arizona rancher, testified that at his ranch he has seen houses broken into, vehicles stolen, trash left, and waterlines broken by illegal immigrants crossing the property.

Frank is the son of Rob Krentz, a prominent Arizona rancher found shot dead on his property after reporting seeing an immigrant in need of help. Local authorities said evidence indicated that the assailant was most likely an illegal immigrant.

Krentz recalled, “I was told once by a US Congressman that the people along the border have become ‘numb’ to the whole border issue. They have gotten use to the idea that this is the new normal if they want to live here.”

“I wouldn’t say that we have become ‘numb,’” Krentz added, “but we have become resilient; that we want to live in this part of the world, that many of the families here have been here for many years and generations and hope to have many more on this part of the world they have carved out for themselves.” 

...Enhancing security and promoting trade do not have to be contradictory, according to Jaime Chamberlain President of JC Distributing Inc., an Arizona based company with a 46-year history of importing and distributing fresh produce from Mexico throughout the United States and Canada.

“With enhanced security our enforcement officials can, with greater certainty, secure our communities and bolster our economic productivity,” said Chamberlain.

Chamberlain noted that ports of entry at Nogales processed 640,000 trucks, 7 million cars and 21 million people this past year, which represents more than $25 billion worth of imports and exports flowing through Nogales each year. Moreover, it is estimated that Mexican visitors spend over $7.3 million per day in Arizona. 

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