Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, speaking with reporters by phone from Coronado Island near San Diego during a two-day tour of the U.S. border with Mexico, says he is impressed with the high level of innovation and dedication he found among U.S. border patrol agents.
“I was surprised at the violence they face every day,” said McNerney, such as rocks and incendiary devices. “I didn’t realize it was so intense.”
McNerney led the fact-finding trip with several colleagues in an effort to better understand the nature of border security, one of the nation’s key defenses against terrorism, illegal drug trafficking and the flow of illegal immigrants.
The group visited San Ysidro, the main port of entry between Mexico and San Diego, as well as the beaches and the fencing along the border. San Ysidro is the busiest land border port in the U.S. In 2006, about 40 million people crossed the border at this port. They also talked with border patrol agents involved in research and technology, and the truck and agricultural inspection center. Today, they will tour the border investigative units.
“It’s very difficult to understand the depth of the challenges the country faces at its borders just from reading briefings and going to hearings,” McNerney said.
The congressman does not yet have any specific policy recommendations as a result of the trip but say he has some preliminary ideas on how to improve and increase resources for border patrol operations.
“One thing the border patrol agents made really clear was how important the National Guard is, which supplies the manpower to run the cameras and help with the other technology being used,” McNerney said. “It’s clear they need more resources.”
UPDATE: The National Republican Congressional Committee, which has targeted McNerney, just sent out a press release calling the congressman’s visit to the border a “farce” designed to distract voters from a prior vote against a ban on the use of public funds to provide housing for illegal immigrants.
“Voting in favor of taxpayer funded benefits for illegal immigrants only provides greater incentive for illegal immigrants looking to cross the border,”the NRCC wrote.
But McNerney has said that he voted against the ban because existing law already precludes the use of federal dollars to house illegal immigrants.
Democrats widely viewed the provision, which the Republicans in August sought to attach to the 2008 agricultural spending bill, as a “gotcha” move intended to provide the GOP with campaign fodder in upcoming re-election campaigns of vulnerable Democrats such as McNerney.
Is this the best the NRCC can do?