The U.S. Border Patrol is implementing
a new initiative on the Mexico border with the state of Arizona called simply "Arizona
Border Control." This is in response to the massive human smuggling operations
that have moved to this desert area in recent years and the deaths of hundreds
of migrants who get lost in the harsh terrain without sufficient water. The new
law enforcement effort is not being hailed by everyone.
The head of the Tucson sector Border Patrol operation, David Aguilar sees the
Arizona Border Control operation as at least partly a humanitarian effort to
stop immigrants from dying in the desert. "What is causing these deaths, what
is causing these people to fall into distress is the criminal operatives, the
criminal organizations that are looking to bypass our enforcement efforts," he
Border Patrol Chief
VOA Photo G. Flakus
Mr. Aguilar, who will soon take over as national director of the agency in
Washington, said that the beefed up enforcement here in Arizona will undoubtedly
send smugglers and illegal immigrants to other points on the border. However,
he added that the Border Patrol is trying to stop them wherever they go.
"One of the major areas that we are taking into account under the Arizona
Border Control initiative is not only bringing a focus to the areas of the
border where we had not focused before, could not because of lack of resources,
but also concurrent with that is being vigilant in other parts of the country
and other areas so that when a trend starts developing we are responsive in
a reactive and preferably, in a proactive manner, to go out and mitigate those
traffic levels that are out there," he noted.
To tighten their grip on the Arizona border, by June 1, more than 200 agents
will be sent to the area to augment the 18 hundred already there. More electronic
sensors are being placed at strategic locations to detect intruders and two
unmanned aerial vehicles, similar to the ones being used by the military in
Afghanistan and Iraq, are being deployed over the border. Mr. Aguilar said
that these drones will provide for much faster and more efficient response
when a sensor detects movement on the ground.
"By launching an unmanned aerial vehicle that has the capacity to put eyes
on that sensor and see what set it off, we will now be able to make a determination
of whether our interest is there," he said. "We will now be able to see whether
the person or persons are armed. We will be able to make a determination as
to how many people or individuals set that off. We will be able to gage our
response more appropriately."
But not everyone in Tucson and the border region applauds this new initiative.
Various religious and human rights groups who work with immigrants argue that
increased enforcement will only lead to more misery and deaths.
Ray Rodriguez is with the Pima County Interfaith Council, a group that includes
representatives from all major churches and synagogues in the Tucson area. "We
have to welcome the stranger," he said. "People have rights to come to wherever
they want to better themselves if their country is not providing that."
Since Mexico and many other Latin American nations are not producing good jobs
for their growing populations, Rodriguez says, it is only natural that people
from there seek jobs here in the United States. He notes that the immigrants
who toil in the hot Arizona sun installing roofs, for example, are doing work
most citizens and legal residents would not do.
VOA Photo G. Flakus
"No one else is going to do the roofing jobs that more than likely the recent
arrival is going to do," he explained. "Construction is another area. We Americans,
for whatever reason, do not take that type of work. We do not like that working
outside. They are also taking manufacturing jobs. They are very good workers
and they are reliable. They are dependable. They came here for the purpose
Mr. Rodriguez and others who work with immigrants here say tightening security
at the border will not hold back the human tide and that the only answer is
comprehensive immigration reform.
They are countered, however, by many others in this border region who say
too many immigrants are already here. They are criticizing the U.S. government
for not doing more to seal the border and some have even started their own
patrols along the border. These groups are watching the current Border Patrol
operation with interest and offering to do what they can to support it.