'Czar' to Review Border Activity! 

'Czar' to Review Border Activity! 
Posted by FoM on January 24, 1999 at 18:26:57 PT

LAREDO A mariachi band and a giant X-ray machine that looks like a car wash are to be on hand today when the nation's Southwest "border czar" arrives for talks with everyone from FBI agents to a national coalition of county governments. 
John Kelly's two-day visit will wrap up a whirlwind helicopter tour of South Texas that has included a roundtable with officials in McAllen and the seizure of more than a ton of marijuana at a home in the Brownsville Country Club area. He is expected to tour Laredo's stretch of the Rio Grande and meet privately with local law enforcement officials and local chiefs of several federal agencies. Kelly, the senior federal prosecutor on the U.S.-Mexico border, serves as the eyes and ears for U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno and is visiting the region to review drug and immigration matters, officials said. He also is the U.S. attorney for the district of New Mexico, reports directly to Reno and coordinates law enforcement operations involving local, state and federal agencies. "He is going to be looking at hot spots  hot crossings," said Leonard Lindheim, head of U.S. Customs Service investigations for South Texas. Kelly is scheduled to wrap up his visit Friday with a keynote address to a coalition gathered here of border county leaders from Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. County officials hope Kelly will address such issues as the impact of undocumented immigration on local courts, jails and hospitals. "We want to hear from him and what he perceives are the key issues," Joe Carter of the management firm with the U.S.-Mexico Border Counties Coaltion said Wednesday. Among those scheduled to meet with Kelly is Webb County District Attorney Joe Rubio, who drew controversy in 1997 when he refused to prosecute people arrested by federal agents on minor drug charges because the federal government wouldn't pay for the costs of prosecuting the cases. That issue has yet to be resolved, and Rubio could not be reached for comment. "There's going to be some lively discussion related to this (undocumented immigration," said Carlos Villarreal, the administrator for Webb County. "We've been trend setters on this." Kelly also is scheduled to attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony for a high-tech X-ray machine at the Laredo-Colombia Solidarity Bridge. The machine, which is the third of its kind on the Texas-Mexico border, enables inspectors to search an entire truck for hidden narcotics without unloading a single pallet. Kelly comes as the number of drug and immigration cases filed by federal prosecutors has increased more than 90 percent from 1998 to 1997. In 1998, prosecutors filed 1,093 cases involving violations of immigration law. That compares to 55 the previous year. As for drugs, prosecutors filed 1,173 cases in 1998. That compares to 721 the previous year. The seizure of drugs along the South Texas-Mexico also increased dramatically in 1998. From Brownsville to Del Rio, more than 7 tons of cocaine were discovered by Customs in 1998, three times the amount seized the year before. Included were 2 tons of cocaine concealed in a double-walled cooking grease tanker entering the United States at the Colombia bridge, located about 18 miles northwest of downtown Laredo.By Dane Schiller
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