- The Washington Times - Monday, June 13, 2011

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

I returned last week from a trip to McAllen, Texas, which sits directly across the Rio Grande from Reynosa, Mexico. I spent my time talking with the mayor, Border Patrol agents, Texas Department of Public Safety agents, district judges and U.S. marshals. I even had the privilege to patrol the border with a Texas Ranger Reconnaissance Team. In my discussions with law enforcement officials and experts on the current border situation and from my own personal observations, it was exceedingly clear to me that in certain areas along the border, not only has the level of violence increased, it is worse than it ever has been.

In March, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano conversely claimed that the situation along the border was “better than it has ever been.” She dismissed statements to the contrary as “often made only to score political points.” Ms. Napolitano’s message is not only out of touch and tone-deaf, it is dangerous for anyone living along the border or in a border state. Homeland security is not a partisan issue, so it is disappointing that Ms. Napolitano dismisses legitimate concerns as political posturing. The thought that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the federal agency directly responsible for protecting our borders, is not taking the job seriously is cause for alarm. As further proof of its negligence, DHS recently removed National Guard units from the southern border of Arizona months before they were scheduled to leave - a decision derided as a mistake by Arizona lawmakers familiar with the border situation.

Sadly, this administration and previous ones have not treated border security as a national priority. The most effective way to improve the situation along the border is through strict enforcement of existing laws, which I am proud to say is under way in some sectors of the border and already showing dramatic results. In fact, if there were anything positive about Ms. Napolitano’s visit to the border, it was that the lack of crime she witnessed in El Paso is a testament to the effectiveness of Operation Streamline, a bipartisan effort my colleagues and I have worked arm-in-arm to fund, implement and expand. Miss Napolitano visited areas where Operation Streamline, a zero-tolerance law enforcement program, is already in effect. The areas under Operation Streamline are not the problem. The problem is the areas where Streamline has not been implemented, and that is where we need to focus our attention and resources. My colleagues and I on both sides of the aisle have made it a top priority to expand Operation Streamline along the entire border, from Brownsville, Texas, to San Diego.

If my trip to the border demonstrated anything, it was that the federal government could be doing much more to improve border security. Keeping Americans safe is the No. 1 priority for everyone in Congress, and I promise you that I will not rest until the border is secure and the people of Texas and our great nation are safe.

Rep. John Abney Culberson is a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Texas.

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