- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 27, 2005

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has targeted the Del Rio, Texas, sector for a multiagency border-control initiative called “Operation Streamline II,” which will focus on high-traffic smuggling corridors along the 205 miles of the Rio Grande that divide the sector from Mexico.

“Securing our nation’s borders from a potential terrorist threat and from the illegal entry of people, weapons and drugs is absolutely paramount,” said U.S. Border Patrol Chief David V. Aguilar.

“Through Operation Streamline II, we are able to target a federal government offensive in the Del Rio area intended to dramatically reduce illegal activity and deter future activity,” he said.

The operation, involving the Border Patrol, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the U.S. attorney’s office and the U.S. Marshals Service, will focus on foreigners who enter the country illegally through high-traffic areas in the Del Rio Border Patrol sector.

The plan calls for apprehended migrants who are not released on humanitarian grounds to be prosecuted for illegal entry, with a penalty of up to 180 days of incarceration. While the aliens undergo criminal proceedings, they also will be processed for removal from the U.S.

“ICE is committed to a seamless partnership with federal, state and local entities to ensure there are consequences for those who violate our nation’s immigration laws,” said John P. Torres, acting director of ICE’s Office of Detention and Removal Operations.

“We will prioritize our resources to ensure those who enter illegally are removed expeditiously,” he said. “Operation Streamline II recognizes the critical importance of detention and immediate removal as deterrence to future illegal migration.”

Border Patrol personnel in the Del Rio sector are responsible for 59,541 square miles of Texas, reaching 300 miles into the state from the U.S.-Mexico border. The sector’s 41 counties consist primarily of farms and ranches in a sparsely populated area — making the region a major staging area for drug and alien smugglers.

But, Mr. Aguilar said, the sector has been an integral part of an ongoing border strategy initiative designed to shut down the traditional corridors illegal aliens use along the nation’s Southwest border.

The chief noted that the Rio Grande makes up the entire southern boundary of the Del Rio sector, adding that it can be forded on foot in several locations, although not by vehicles. He described the river area as varied, with rough, rolling terrain covered with mesquite, sagebrush or cane growing eight to 12 feet high.

Mr. Aguilar said major highways lead from Mexico’s interior, then spread laterally along the river, giving “relatively easy access” to those looking to cross into the United States. He called the illegal flow of foreigners across the river through the sector a “challenge” to the Border Patrol.

He also said the absence of man-made barricades to control the points of entry gives illegal aliens, as well as alien and drug smugglers, the ability to cross virtually any place along the river.

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