U.S. Border Patrol and DEA Need Help

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and I arrived by small aircraft in the 100 degree heat of a Texas summer at a municipal airport near the US/Mexico border.

Harlingen, Texas, is ground zero for the influx of illegal aliens from countries "other than Mexico" (OTMs) and, like San Diego yesterday, has made tremendous progress reducing the flow of human traffic in recent years. Shortly after our arrival we watched as the Coast Guard jet carrying DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff touched down and taxied to the terminal. A huge motorcade pulled up to the aircraft and we were spirited into an oversize van for an immediate briefing and border tour.

Secretary Chertoff is an intense and impressive administrator. He peppered the U.S. Border leadership at our briefing with questions and outlined upcoming strategies with ease. Yesterday, Secretary Chertoff made national news announcing that all OTM's would be subject to the new "catch and remove" policy, ending a long-time policy of allowing illegals to leave custody on a promise to return for a hearing six weeks later. As we left the tarmac, we watched as dozens of OTM' s were escorted to two waiting 737 aircraft for a return trip to their Central American homes.
Following a briefing at headquarters, we made our way down narrow and dusty roads to the edge of the United States, the Rio Grande River. We were briefed on the river patrols, aerial surveillance and technology necessary to interdict human and drug traffic across the treacherous band of water.

At an outdoor press conference, Secretary Chertoff described the recent efforts in this region of Texas and commended the U.S. Border Patrol for the underreported progress they have made.

In response to a question on the prospects for immigration reform, the Secretary stated that the White House was "in no position to endorse" any one proposal. He did express gratitude to Sen. Hutchison and me for our efforts in attempting reach some compromise.

From the Rio Grande, Sen. Hutchison and I flew to San Antonio for a detailed briefing on efforts by the DEA to inderdict narcotics along the border. Today, as yesterday, the message was clear: the same Mexican cartels that are smuggling drugs are smuggling workers into America. The profits from moving thousands of illegal immigrants into our country are subsidizing the manufacture and importation of the drugs that are killing our kids.

As I fly back to Dallas, I believe we have made progress in border security but our U.S. Border Patrol and DEA need help. They need people, technology and funding for barriers and equipment. And they need Congress to come up with a way that people can apply legally outside the United States to meet the needs of our grow ing economy. With the resources, the people, the tools and the ability to just focus on the bad guys, our law enforcement community can secure our border and protect our nation.