Long known as the busiest in the nation, U.S. Border Patrol’s Tucson sector reports its strategy developed over the past decade has worked, and South Texas could benefit from its experience, in the face of a renewed surge of illegal immigration.
“There are things that we have tried and tested and proven that work, and anything we have is being looked at by the South Texas leadership,” said Jeff Self, Arizona Joint Field commander.
Daniel Tirado, a spokesman for the U.S. Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley sector, said South Texas now has the technology, fencing and additional manpower that Arizona now has at levels it once lacked.
“We’re trying to help them just as they’ve been trying to help us,” Self said.
The first of its kind within U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Joint Intelligence and Operations Center based in Tucson monitors illegal activity picked up by technology, unmanned aerial vehicles, as well as agents on the ground, then deploys manpower and resources where they are most needed.
“We’ve had a lot of lessons learned. We’ve had a lot of bumps and bruises, but we’re trying to do that so we can replicate this elsewhere,” said Mark Mitchell, its chief watch commander.
Someday when the concept is exported to South Texas, Mitchell said, “This would be a great resource for the agents in the field and senior leadership down there.”
For now, CBP has its South Texas Campaign based in Laredo that pursues transnational criminal organizations, by coordinating efforts in the field by multiple law enforcement agencies.
“The STC is utilizing an integrated approach by focusing enforcement and investigative efforts in the South Texas corridor to combat illicit activity,” said Narcizo Ramos, STC assistant commander.
As for apprehensions, agents in the Rio Grande Valley report their numbers are closing in on what Arizona now sees, less than 70,000. But in 2000, the Tucson sector reported 616,000 undocumented immigrants detained.
Self said the decline started before Arizona’s controversial law targeting illegal immigrants, an improving Mexican economy, and a decline in demand during the recession.
Self said, “Border security is truly a holistic approach.”
Had it not been for that, Self said, “We would still have a chaotic border environment. It would be completely out of control.”
He said now his agency is 87 percent effective in securing Arizona’s border.
Yet at one time, Self said critics thought it impossible.
He said, “You were skeptical back then. You didn’t think we’d be where we are today.”