U.S. Border Patrol checkpoints near the Mexican border are essential in
stopping the flow of illegal aliens and drugs into America, say
law-enforcement authorities, but permanent checkpoints in southern Arizona
are not allowed.
While Border Patrol agents in Arizona accounted for more than half of
the 1.15 million illegals caught last year, Congress -- led by Rep. Jim
Kolbe, Arizona Republican -- steadfastly has approved appropriation bills
that prohibit permanent checkpoints along a 260-mile section of the Arizona
border known as the Tucson sector.
Tucson is the only one of 20 Border Patrol sectors nationwide not
permitted to set up permanent checkpoints.
Last year, according to the Department of Homeland Security, agents
working at permanent checkpoints in the other 19 sectors detained more than
51,000 illegal aliens -- about 140 a day -- and seized nearly 450,000 pounds
of marijuana and cocaine, valued at more than $700 million.
Mr. Kolbe, senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, has
vigorously argued that permanent checkpoints are not the best use of
available Border Patrol resources, saying: "If it's permanent, then everyone
knows where the checkpoint is and they just go around it."...
While Mr. Kolbe has endorsed the use of "tactical mobile checkpoints
that move from place to place," Border Patrol Chief David V. Aguilar, who
formerly headed the Tucson sector, told a Senate subcommittee last month
that permanent checkpoints south of Tucson would help agents apprehend more
illegal aliens trying to sneak into the United States.
Mr. Aguilar testified before a Senate Homeland Security subcommittee
that agents "cannot control our borders by merely enforcing the line,"
adding that the Border Patrol strategy "incorporates a defense-in-depth
component" to include permanent checkpoints away from the border.
"Checkpoints are critical to our patrol efforts," he said. "Permanent
checkpoints allow the Border Patrol to establish an important second layer
Border Patrol field agents in Arizona said the state's terrain, coupled
with a limited number of highways, creates "choke points" ideal for
permanent checkpoints, and that illegals who attempt to go around are
targeted by mobile Border Patrol units routinely assigned as a part of a
They also said temporary checkpoints offer little if any protection
against the elements, including temperatures in Arizona that often exceed
110 degrees, and that permanent checkpoints allow for the installation of
improved radio and telephone communications.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Robert C. Bonner,
who oversees the Border Patrol, told a House committee this month that
permanent checkpoints are "critical" in controlling illegal immigration...
In testimony before the House Government Reform Committee, Mr. Bonner
said permanent checkpoints "deny major routes of egress from the borders to
smugglers intent on delivering people, drugs and other contraband."...
congressman had met with investigators.
In 1997, Mr. Kolbe successfully killed a $1 million allocation by
Congress for the construction of a permanent checkpoint on Interstate 19
north of Nogales, after area residents complained it would disrupt traffic
and lead to increased numbers of illegal aliens crossing through residential