Arizona Declared "Weakest Spot" on US Border
Calling Arizona the weakest portion of the Southwestern border and warning that terrorists may try to exploit its vulnerability, top Homeland Security officials on Wednesday pledged to add 534 Border Patrol agents and to more than double the number of aircraft within six months.While any move to augment the border patrol should be applauded, given the magnititude of the problem in Arizona, an additional 534 border agents hardly seems adequate. The US committed 150,000 soldiers, innumberable tanks, planes and ships at a cost of $250 billion to invade Iraq because it was suspected of possessing weapons of mass destruction, even though it had never used those weapons against the US - even during a previous US invasion of its territory. Yet the best Washington can do in the face of the well-documented invasion of US territory by millions of illegal immigrants from Mexico is post 534 new border agents along the most penetrated point in the border? This is the best the Bush administration can do to secure the homeland in the ongoing "War on Terror"?
Robert Bonner, U.S. Customs and Border Protection commissioner, said officials have a "comprehensive strategy" designed to secure Arizona's border, a goal that has remained elusive despite record manpower increases in recent years. Department of Homeland Security plans include increasing the number of agents in the state to more than 2,900 by the end of September and adding 23 helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft and targeting popular smuggling corridors controlled by organized-crime networks.
But some border security experts and academics said they doubt the increase, although widely recognized as significant, will be enough to stem illegal immigration through Arizona. The state shares 389 miles of border with Mexico and includes remote, treacherous expanses of desert and well-established smuggling corridors.
Terorists have identified the US-Mexico border as a convenient means to infiltrate the US, according to recently published intelligence. It remains unclear if al-Qaeda has actually done so. However, given the horrific events of September 11, 2001, prudence would dictate rapidly closing off any means by which al-Qaeda operatives could get easy access to the US. Washington has been warned of this danger, and administration officials openly acknowledge it.
"This is a national security issue and homeland security issue, and nowhere is that more apparent than in Arizona," Bonner said, adding that the data clearly show it is the "weakest spot in our border right now."If the administration has knowledge that our enemies are planning to send agents across the US-Mexico border with the goal of inflicting another September 11th-style attack in the US, why hasn't the administration deployed thousands of new border guards, backed up by the best helicopters, planes and tanks available to secure the border? In the absence of such a response to a clear and present threat, how seriously can we take this administration's committment to protecting the US homeland, or combating terorism?
The vulnerability of Arizona's border, where agents arrested an average of 1,600 undocumented immigrants a day last year, has gained greater urgency with reports from top Homeland Security and FBI officials that al-Qaida operatives are eyeing the Southwestern border, although no one has publicly offered evidence to support that information.
"The reason we have to get control along the borders of our country is because we have an enemy that is bound and determined to attack us, and that's al-Qaida and associated terrorist organizations," Bonner said.
He said that officials have information that the organization that orchestrated the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, "has contemplated and planned the potential for getting terrorist operatives into Mexico and across the border into the United States illegally."