South Texas To Be INS Hot Spot! 

South Texas To Be INS Hot Spot! 
Posted by FoM on February 18, 1999 at 07:23:35 PT

LAREDO With almost 500 new Border Patrol agents headed for South Texas, the Rio Grande Valley will surpass El Paso as the state's hot spot for battling drug smuggling and undocumented immigration, officials said Wednesday. 
An additional 500 agents will be spread among Arizona, California and New Mexico as part of a nationwide installment that will bring the patrol's strength to an all-time high of almost 9,000 agents, according to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, which oversees the patrol. With the announcement, the patrol has all but stopped sending new agents to San Diego and El Paso — areas that are considered tamed after once being considered nothing short of war zones for illegal activity. "This deployment builds on the success of our operations in major illegal crossing corridors," said Gus De La Viña, national chief of the Border Patrol. "As we have gained control in these areas, we are broadening our operational focus to extend our control of the flow of illegal traffic along other areas of the Southwest border, from Brownsville to San Diego," he said. The next step likely will be to concentrate more agents upriver from the Valley, from here to Del Rio. The new agents come as the latest and perhaps last installment on a plan that has boosted the patrol's strength by 1,000 agents per year since 1996. Some congressional leaders, including U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, have squared off against INS Commissioner Doris Meissner over her recent announcement that her next budget request does not seek funds for any new agents. "If boosting the Border Patrol by 1,000 new agents this year to confront drug smugglers at the Southwest border is a priority, why isn't it a priority next year?" Smith asked. "Seventy percent of illegal drugs enter the U.S. across the Southwest border, and the Border Patrol is our first line of defense," he said. As part of the fiscal year 2000 budget, agents will be deployed to sectors all along the 2,000-mile border, including 485 agents for Texas, 15 to New Mexico and 83 to California. The agents to be assigned in New Mexico are included in the count for the El Paso Sector. With the increase, the patrol's McAllen Sector, which stretches from Falcon Lake to the Gulf of Mexico, will gain unprecedented support for Operation Rio Grande, a controversial initiative to stop undocumented immigrants from sneaking through populated stretches of South Texas. Border Patrol officials declined to comment on how the new agents would be deployed in the Valley. Nathan Selzer, a spokesman for the Harlingen-based immigration rights group Proyecto Libertad, said more agents will lead to more people dying as they try to sneak into this country. "As a human rights organization, we find it outrageous the INS continues this policy despite the fact it doesn't work and is costing lives," he said. "It pushes people to cross in more isolated and dangerous areas." Brownsville Police Chief Ben Reyna welcomed the increase and predicted more agents would further cut down on border bandits, burglars and other criminals. "Certainly, we are very pleased the immigration service continues to focus on our area," Reyna said. "We've had a very successful partnership with the Border Patrol, and it has been very beneficial to our community," he said. Jim Dorcy, a retired Border Patrol agent and now spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, said deploying more agents to the Rio Grande won't solve undocumented immigration woes unless authorities also tackle illegal employment. "This is not the way to control the border," Dorcy said by phone from San Diego. "You've got to do something about the interior of the United States." U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-El Paso, had appealed to Meissner to send more agents to El Paso, the border city where Reyes once served as the patrol's sector chief. "While I have been and will continue to be supportive of the INS' recent strategy, Operation Rio Grande, I cannot and will not allow the needs of one of the nation's largest sectors to be ignored," Reyes said in a Feb. 11 letter to Meissner. 
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