- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 16, 2003

A senior Republican lawmaker yesterday introduced legislation to block the U.S. Border Patrol's use of permanent traffic checkpoints along highways near the U.S.-Mexico border south of Tucson, Ariz.
Rep. Jim Kolbe, Arizona Republican and a longtime checkpoint opponent, said the legislation would force the Border Patrol to establish only temporary checkpoints used in an effort to apprehend the hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens crossing each year into the United States.
More than 1 million illegal aliens are expected to be arrested this year trying to enter the United States, and about a third of those arrests will occur in the Tucson sector. Last year, Tucson agents apprehended 449,675 illegal aliens, more than 1,200 a day.
"The Border Patrol has thus far failed to get the message that in order to effectively protect our nation's borders, they must be vigilant in their use of checkpoints consistently move them around so they are unpredictable to those wishing to circumvent them," Mr. Kolbe said.
"Although this is common sense I remain frustrated by reports that checkpoints set up away from the border remain in place for years in effect serving as a permanent checkpoint. I am tired of playing games. We already have a permanent checkpoint it's our border," he said.
Mr. Kolbe, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said the last four Commerce, Justice, State and Judiciary subcommittee appropriations bills prohibited the Border Patrol from spending money on a permanent checkpoint in the Tucson sector.
He said the new legislation "augments this restriction" by mandating that the Border Patrol relocate the checkpoints once every seven days to improve border security efforts.
Under the proposed legislation, no federal funds would be made available for site acquisition, design or construction of any Border Patrol checkpoint in the Tucson sector.
The Border Patrol believes that permanent highway checkpoints are valuable tools in controlling a flood of illegal aliens and illicit drugs into this country. Several permanent traffic checkpoints have been established on major highways leading away from the border.
The agency has noted that permanent checkpoints in California, New Mexico and Texas serve as the third tier of defense and deterrence for illegal aliens and account for a large share of all drug seizures along the southwestern border.
Two of the country's busiest highway checkpoints in San Clemente and Temecula, Calif. last year accounted for the arrests of 9,139 illegal immigrants and the seizure of $12.8 million in drugs, about 40 percent of all the illicit narcotics seized by agents in the San Diego sector.
In Texas, the Falfurrias checkpoint last year seized more than 82,000 pounds of marijuana, 4,600 pounds of cocaine and 1,900 ounces of heroin valued at more than $221 million. That checkpoint also accounted for the arrests of more than 13,500 illegal aliens.
A Congressional Research Service report concluded last year that permanent highway checkpoints gave motorists notice that the roadblock affected all traffic, and reduced or eliminated the risk of "wholly unfettered executive discretion" that could exist with roving checkpoints.
"Checkpoints limit field agents' discretion in stopping vehicles in that administrators decide on the roadblock's location," the CRS report said. "Field agents can only stop cars passing through the checkpoint. As such, motorists are subjectively reassured that they are not being randomly harassed."


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