Almost two years ago I visited southern California to watch the U.S. Border Patrol at work. The federal government was building a fence and, with help from the National Guard, federal agents were stepping up patrols and slowing the flow of illegal aliens across our southern border.
But in homeland defense, as in politics, there are no permanent victories. Most illegal migration is now happening further east. With portions of the California border fenced off, smugglers are moving people and drugs through Arizona.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has taken some good first steps. DHS is redeploying more than 360 additional officers and agents, most to the border and some to Mexico itself. Washington will also send more technology to the border, including biometric identification equipment to help catch crossers coming north, and mobile X-ray units to recover cash and weapons headed south.
Perhaps most important are eight additional Law Enforcement Tactical Centers, where the Border Patrol shares information with local law enforcement. That’s critical.
Partnering with locals is “one of the fastest, most effective and most cost-effective ways to get more assets into the border war right now,” wrote James Carafano, a fellow in national security at The Heritage Foundation, after his own recent trip to the border. “It is going to take an integrated federal-state-and-local law enforcement effort to beat the cartels on this side of the border, and we have to make the locals a stronger part of that team.”
The good news is that local sheriff’s deputies have made a dent in drug smuggling. With closer cooperation from Washington, they say they could make a real difference, and perhaps even start to roll up the cartel organizations north of the border.
But while Napolitano has taken a step forward, she’s also taken a step back.
According to The Washington Post, she “has delayed a series of proposed immigration raids and other enforcement actions at U.S. workplaces in recent weeks, asking agents in her department to apply more scrutiny to the selection and investigation of targets as well as the timing of raids.” That’s a mistake.