Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, announced today he’ll lead a two-day Congressional delegation trip to the California-Mexico border Sunday and Monday, seeking “a firsthand perspective from Border Patrol agents about what is working and what isn’t in stemming the flow of illegal border crossings and drugs entering our country,” the news release says.
McNerney; Joe Sestak, D-Pa.; and Paul Hodes, D-NH, will be briefed on aspects of the border-control operation in the San Diego Sector, covering 66 linear miles of the boundary with Mexico, and will tour part of the border and meet with Border Patrol Agents. Specifically, the three House freshmen will tours of several Ports of Entry, meet with the San Diego Sector Chief, and eyeball some of the specialty teams and equipment used to monitor and patrol the border.
Illegal immigration and drug trafficking are significant problems. This trip to the border is important because you can only understand so much from reading the newspaper, watching television, or even reading briefings or hearing testimony from experts. Sometimes, it’s important to actually go and see it for yourself.
In particular, I am looking forward to talking to Border Patrol agents and California National Guard troops who serve on the front lines. I’d like to hear what kind of trends they are sensing and if they have found any particularly effective strategies to combat illegal border crossings and drug running.
The San Diego Sector’s territory traditionally has been some of the most active in both illegal immigration as well as drug trafficking, McNerney said in his release; a 1994 Government Accountability Office report estimated that over half of all the apprehensions of those attempting to cross the border illegally took place over just 18 miles out of the entire 1,600 mile U.S.-Mexico border: 13 miles in San Diego and 5 miles in El Paso, Texas.
Since then, the San Diego Sector has made progress in reducing the amount of illegal border crossings through measures implemented under the controversial Operation Gatekeeper program launched in 1994, McNerney says. Operation Gatekeeper represented a shift from a policy of apprehending and returning illegal immigrants to their country of origin to a policy of actively deterring illegal border crossings. While apprehension of those crossing the border illegally has decreased, drug trafficking remains a major concern at the San Diego-Mexico border.