- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff yesterday exercised his legal authority to bypass regulatory obstacles that had long delayed completion of a 14-mile border “enforcement zone” near San Diego.

“Completing the border infrastructure system will strengthen our efforts to reduce illegal entry to the United States. Congress provided us the authority to ensure this project is completed, and I intend to use it,” Mr. Chertoff said.

The order came under the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and the Real ID Act of 2005, both of which mandated construction of necessary infrastructure in the region to reduce illegal entry and improve border security — but that has been delayed since 1996 by litigation and environmental challenges.

U.S. Border Patrol chief David V. Aguilar, during a press briefing, called the project “the next important step in border security,” saying it would allow an enforcement zone in San Diego that would free up manpower and resources for other areas.

“This is not about building a fence but managing our borders more effectively. That’s a good thing, not only for San Diego and California, but also Mexico,” Mr. Aguilar said, noting that elevated levels of illegal immigration had increased crime on both sides of the border. “This is about border security, about the responsibility we have to protect our nation.”

He said primary and secondary fences, parallel roadways to give Border Patrol agents immediate access to the boundary and speed response efforts, stadium lighting to deter border crossers, and sensors and surveillance cameras to monitor incursions would create “a certainty of arrest in that zone.”

“This is not so much about apprehension, but about deterrence. It will give us accessibility and mobility on the border,” he said.

Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican and author of the Real ID Act, said that although U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) deserved credit for improving security in the area, “completion of this congressionally mandated border fence continues to be stymied by litigation and obstructionism.”

“This intolerable situation forced Congress earlier this year to pass the Real ID Act, which gave Secretary Chertoff the authority he announced today he will be exercising,” he said.

Mr. Sensenbrenner, who is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the project would improve the security of the American public, especially those in the San Diego area; allow CBP to use its resources in a more effective manner; and clean up the environmental destruction that has resulted from illegal border crossings.

Mr. Chertoff noted that construction within the middle nine miles of the project area has begun, and that an extension of the roadway system, barriers and lighting would expand the project to areas west and east of the current enforcement zone.

He said the initial construction efforts resulted in a decline in border crossings and reduced what he called the “negative environmental impacts” to the region caused by illegal migration, such as trails of garbage, destruction of vegetation and trampling of sensitive lands.

Mr. Chertoff said that by completing both phases of the project, damage to the surrounding environment will be sharply reduced.

“The Department of Homeland Security is not compromising its commitment to responsible environmental stewardship in the area,” he said. “We will act in an environmentally responsible manner consistent with the security needs of the nation.”

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