Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Another Local Government Speaks Out Against Permanent Checkpoints

Yesterday, the Pima County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted against the Border Patrol's plan to build permanent interior checkpoints in the Tucson sector.

A copy of the Board's resolution can be found here.

However, the most interesting thing that occurred yesterday is when Border Patrol Chief Agent Robert Gilbert came dashing through the door at the last minute indicating that he was not aware of the meeting. Since when does the Border Patrol need a gilded and embossed invitation to a publicly noticed, regularly scheduled public meeting of a local governmental body? Moreover, there was even an article about the meeting in the newspaper on Saturday!!!

Yesterday is further evidence on how out of touch the Border Patrol is with the local governments and residents that suffer the consequence of their misguided permanent checkpoint strategy.

UPDATE: Veteran Channel 13 reporter Bud Foster did a story on the proceedings at the county building yesterday. It can be accessed here.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Misleading and Incomplete Stats Department: Record Pot Seizures in the Tucson Sector

The Arizona Daily Star reports this morning reports that agents in the Tucson Border Patrol Sector have seized a record 845,000 tons of marijuana so far this year.

While the Border Patrol attributes this increase to being able to operate the checkpoint in a fixed location, the one thing this statistic does not address is the amount of pot NOT being seized by "flanking" the fixed checkpoint on I-19.

Who is to say that the drug smugglers are viewing that the pot seized at the fixed checkpoint as a cost of doing business. And their profits are the many tons that are getting past the fixed, static checkpoint.

Moreover, the General Accounting Office (GAO) in 2005, clearly stated that using apprehension statistics alone is an inadequate measure of the performance of permanent interior checkpoints. Other factors "such as apprehensions per agent work year and cost per apprehension," etc. must be considered in order to truly evaluate the permanent checkpoints.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Blog Update: Contact Your Senator or Representative

In the column on the left, you will notice a box listing Arizona's United States Senators and Congressman/Congresswoman whose Congressional Districts are bounded by the US-Mexico border. Clicking their names will take you directly to their Congressional web-sites where you can leave them a note.

Before you do though, read the previous post. That will give you some thoughts to share with Congress.

Friday, September 7, 2007

GAO: "Modest" Progress on Border Security; Border Patrol: Let's Spend $20-$30 million to Move the Border 30 Miles North

In a "highly critical" report released yesterday by the General Accounting Office (GAO), the Border Patrol is found to be "generally not achieving" 7 out of 12 border security performance expectations. What would any parent do if their child brought home a report card this bad. Unfortunately, the GAO report card is a matter of national security as opposed to penmanship.

The performance expectations in which the GAO identified as "generally not achieved" by the Border Patrol include:
  • Implement a biometric exit system to collect information on border crossers leaving the United States through ports of entry;
  • Implement a strategy to detect and interdict illegal flows of cargo, drugs and other items into the United States;
  • Implement effective security measures in the visa issuance process;
  • Implement initiatives related to the security of certain documents used to enter the United States;
  • Ensure adequate infrastructure and facilities;
  • Leverage technology, personnel, and information to secure the border;
Interestingly, the areas in which Border Patrol "generally achieved" the performance expectations is for developing programs and plans. Where they fall short is implementation.

Concerning the adequate infrastructure performance measure that is not being met, one would think that given the Border Patrol's assertion that interior permanent checkpoints are vital, the GAO would have specifically mentioned this as a reason for not achieving this performance measurement.

Think again.

In fact, GAO does not specifically address interior checkpoints.
Moreover, consistent with its 2005 report on the interior checkpoint, the GAO says that they were "unable to verify implementation" of practices to ensure that capital projects support the agency's strategic goals and identify the mission need and gap between current and required capability.

This GAO finding speaks directly to the need for an independent analysis of whether or not checkpoints are an effective border security tool. The GAO clearly says that the Border Patrol is incapable of making this finding.

Hello Congress?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A Wednesday Grab-Bag.....

Lots of stuff on the permanent checkpoint issue. Instead of multiple posts, it is aggregated into one posting.

1) Apparently, the Border Patrol has a redefined mission. According to a recent article in the Laredo (TX) Morning Times, "Border Patrol agents don't have the responsibility of apprehending illegal immigrants, Carlos X. Carrillo, chief patrol agent for the Laredo sector, said at a town hall meeting Wednesday. 'The Border Patrol is not equipped to stop illegal immigrants,' Carrillo said, noting that illegal narcotics are also not on the agents priority list." He went on to say that the focus of that sector is solely terrorism.

STOP. Read the previous paragraph again.

Wow. That's a biggie.

So in light of this new mission, one wonders how this impacts the Tucson sector's plans to build a $20 to $30 million checkpoint at KM 50.

Also, the article goes on to point out that a property owner north of the new "state-of-the-art" permanent checkpoint on I-35 north of the Laredo is seeing "20 to 50 illegal immigrants daily on her property." The new checkpoint seems to be working out well, doesn’t it.

2) Keep those cards and letters coming. Not that letters to editors are necessarily the most accurate indication of the community’s views, but it is interesting nonetheless that according to the Arizona Daily Star, between August 18th and August 24th, 13 letters were received in opposition to the Permanent Checkpoint and 1 in favor.

3) Another voice in the Arizona Daily Star speaking out against permanent checkpoints is Randy Mayer, Pastor of the Good Shepherd United Church of Christ in Sahuarita. Reverend Mayer, in his op-ed, says that "it is pretty clear that the checkpoint does very little in making our country or community more secure. It just pushes the undocumented immigration and drug-smuggling activity further to the margins, deeper into our neighborhoods and further into the shadows, while it quietly sweeps meaningful immigration reform under the carpet."

Opposition to permanent checkpoints comes from all points across the political AND spiritual spectrum.

4) On its web-site, the Border Patrol Union Local 2544 endorses permanent checkpoints while personally singling out members of the Coalition for a Safe and Secure Border (CSSB.) Similar to the Tucson Sector Chief’s shocking lack of understanding about the Constitution, federal law enforcement agents singling out private citizens for simply expressing their views in a public involvement process is terrifying. This makes one wonder what the Border Patrol is doing with the video footage they took during the public meetings of Congresswoman Giffords' community workgroup.

If Local 2544 would have read the Options Subcommittee report, they would have learned the following -- the CSSB supports improved and upgraded mobile tactical checkpoints, which would certainly have improved amenities for agents over the current checkpoint situation. CSSB also supports giving Border Patrol more tools and more agents, both of which will make them safer as they work to secure the border.

CSSB supports the rank and file agents on the ground. CSSB, however, believes that their leadership has a flawed, antiquated and misguided strategy concerning permanent checkpoints.

Apparently, CSSB agrees with Local 2544 about the Border Patrol’s Washington leadership. On its web-site, Local 2544 says it has no confidence in Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar. CSSB also has no confidence in Chief Aguilar's border security strategy.

[Note: After writing about the Laredo Sector Chief's comments about the Border Patrol's new mission, it was noticed that Local 2544 raised similar questions. Apparently, this is another area in which CSSB and Local 2544 are in agreement.]

5) A pro-permanent checkpoint web-site has just popped up on the internet. Located at, the authors of this web-site amusingly declare that they are "NOT a Coalition." Are they a confederacy, an amalgamation, an alliance, a league....?

Anyway, another interesting nugget from this group is their censorship policy. Apparently, if you don't agree with them, they will block your comments. Conversely, comments from members of the Amalgamation in Support of Permanent Checkpoints (ASPC) are always welcome here and won't be censored.

One final note, a posting on the ASPC web-site says that "Permanent Checkpoints Are the Anchor." CSSB agrees. Permanent checkpoints are a boat anchor preventing the Border Patrol from moving forward with a comprehensive and effective border security strategy.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Finally, a journalist doing his/her job....

If you just read the local newspapers, you would have come to the conclusion that both subcommitees of Congresswoman Gifford's Permanent Checkpoint Work Group arrived at the same conclusion. However, Sean Holstege of the Arizona Republic took the bold and dramatic steps of actually reading the subcommittee reports and correctly characterizing the subcommittees diametrically opposing views.

Thanks, Sean.

One detail you missed though. The full work group voted 13-3 in support of the subcommittee's report that strongly opposed permanent checkpoints.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Last night, Congresswoman Gifford's Permanent Checkpoints Work Group voted 13-3 in favor of a comprehensive border security strategy and against permanent checkpoints. That vote was greeted by a standing ovation from those in attendance.

Although you would not have known this information reading the articles in the Daily Star. I am not sure what meeting Portillo and McCombs were at, but they completely missed that somewhat important point in their writings. One explanation could be that the editors at Lee HQ in Davenport, Iowa spiked that important detail from their stories. Competent journalists such as McCombs and Portillo would not normally have overlooked that critical element.

Some of the other highlights from last night.
  • Over 700 in attendance.
  • During the more than one hour of public comment period, residents from throughout the region echoed the key concerns with permanent interior checkpoints -- namely that they did not seem effective and that they threaten the public safety of surrounding communities. More than one member of the public, as well as members of the Work Group, asked specifically why the Border Patrol felt that they could secure nearly 8,000 sq. miles of U.S. Territory but not fully secure the 261 miles of the Tucson Sector's international border. Chief Gilbert did not have a satisfactory answer to this, particularly regarding the added burden his strategy places on local law enforcement agencies.
  • Work Group members and members of the public expressed disappointment and frustration with the fact that Chief Gilbert was quoted on the front page of the Star as saying he was not interested in hearing about alternatives to a permanent checkpoint and that the work group had been formed only to talk about the specifics of such a checkpoint. Chief Gilbert declared that he stood by all his quotes in the article, but did not agree with the headline. Funny, it seems the headline pretty well summed up his views.
More later....