- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Law-enforcement authorities along the U.S.-Mexico border are outgunned and outmanned by drug smugglers armed with automatic weapons, grenade launchers, bazookas, improvised explosive devices and state-of-the-art communications and tracking systems, a congressional report said yesterday.

“While the United States has taken positive steps to secure its borders, much more is needed to combat an increasingly powerful, sophisticated, organized and violent criminal network, which seeks to move illegal contraband … into our country for profit,” said the House Homeland Security management, integration and oversight subcommittee report.

The 39-page report said drug-trafficking organizations and alien-smuggling networks are “proliferating and strengthening their control” of key corridors along the nation’s Southwest; that Mexican drug cartels wield “substantial control” over the U.S.-Mexico border; and that criminal organizations and networks are “highly sophisticated and organized.”

It also found that drug-trafficking cartels, alien-smuggling networks and U.S.-based street gangs, including MS-13, are increasingly coordinating with one another to achieve their objectives, and that federal, state and local law-enforcement report “new and ever-increasing levels of ruthlessness and violence” associated with the gangs.

The report echoes complaints from the Texas Border Sheriffs Coalition, which repeatedly has said the federal government’s inability to secure the Southwest border has resulted in a dramatic rise in violence against U.S. authorities and made it easier for terrorists to enter the country.

Texas’ Zapata County Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez Jr. told Congress in March the cartels “have the money, equipment and stamina” to bring increased violence to the border, much of it aimed at law-enforcement authorities.

Sheriff Gonzalez told The Washington Times at the time that the coalition — which includes all 16 border sheriffs — was concerned about terrorists using Mexican drug and alien smugglers as cover to cross the border.

Each year, hundreds of illegal aliens from countries known to harbor terrorists or promote terrorism are routinely encountered and apprehended while attempting to enter the U.S. illegally, the House report said.

“The federal government has taken positive steps to secure its borders, but much more is needed to combat an increasingly powerful, sophisticated, and violent criminal network, which has been successful in smuggling illegal contraband, human or otherwise, into our country,” the report said.

“The growth of these criminal groups, along the Southwest border, and the potential for terrorists to exploit the vulnerabilities which they create, represents a real threat to America’s national security,” it said. “It is imperative that immediate action be taken to enhance security along our nation’s Southwest border.”

The report recommended enhancing Border Patrol resources, constructing physical barriers in vulnerable and high-threat areas, and implementing state-of-the-art technology, cameras, sensors, radar, satellites and unmanned aerial vehicles to ensure maximum coverage of the nation’s Southwest border.

President Bush on Oct. 4 signed into law a bill that calls for the hiring of 1,500 more Border Patrol agents and an increase in the number of detention beds for apprehended illegal aliens by 6,700. Congress has approved a bill authorizing the construction of 700 miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border, which Mr. Bush has promised to sign when it gets to his desk.

Mr. Bush also has called for improving border security with high-tech equipment.

Yesterday’s House report also noted that federal law-enforcement authorities estimate that 10 percent to 30 percent of the migrants seeking to illegally enter the United States are apprehended and 10 percent to 20 percent of the drugs bound for this country are seized. It said that in 2005, as many as 4 million to 10 million illegal aliens crossed into the United States; and as much as 5.6 million to 11.2 million pounds of cocaine and 34.3 million to 68.6 million pounds of marijuana entered the United States.

The report also called for an expanded use of the expedited-removal policy; building a secure communications network for Border Patrol and state and local law enforcement; and mandating a comprehensive risk assessment of all Southwest border ports of entry and international land borders to prevent the entry of terrorists and their weapons.

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