Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) recently declared the debate over securing America's borders extends beyond the issue of illegal immigrants and jobs. "Securing our borders will also stop illegal commercial activities, such as human trafficking and drug and weapons smuggling - the three most lucrative illegal commercial activities in the world. Therefore, it is an important national security matter for us to take the appropriate steps to gain operational control of our borders."
Congress finally started to address this pressing matter of national security shortly before adjourning. The Secure Fence Act of 2006, which calls for the construction of a 700-mile fence along the Mexican Border, represents an important step in that effort. Earlier this month, President George W. Bush signed the Homeland Security Appropriations Act, which includes funding for more Border Patrol agents, the fence and more equipment and buildings. Representative J. D. Hayworth (R-AZ) expressed satisfaction with the decision of President Bush to sign the Act because "...it puts in place funding for the first steps, really, of enforcement first."
A recent report by the Majority Staff of the House Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Investigations, reinforces the contentions of concerned legislators, such as Senator Chambliss and Representative Hayworth, that securing the Mexican Border is a pressing issue of national security. Representative Michael McCaul (R-TX), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Investigations, expressed concern to HOUSTON CHRONICLE reporter Michelle Mittelstadt that Islamic groups have a presence in Latin America and may seek an alliance with drug cartels and gangs. "The thing that keeps me up at night when I think, what can we do to prevent another 9/11?, is that [the trafficking networks] own these delivery routes," McCaul was quoted in Mittelstadt's October 17, 2006 story, "Border Patrol, Lawmen Outgunned by Cartels."
The Mexican Border is vast, extending nearly 2,000 miles. "A Line in the Sand: Confronting the Threat at the Southwest Border" (ALITS) notes that the size of the border is not the only challenge confronting the United States Border Patrol. The terrain is varied, much of it mountainous or desert, enabling savvy smugglers of drugs and humans to take advantage of the vast, sparsely populated territory. The report's findings will come as a shocking read to many Americans who have lapsed into complacency as 9/11 recedes in time. The report was produced after the Subcommittee on Investigations held hearings in Washington and in the Southwest.