- The Washington Times - Friday, January 6, 2006

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff says he will crack down on alien smugglers at two border crossings near San Diego by sending more prosecutors to the area and providing increased jail space for those arrested.

Mr. Chertoff’s comments came during speaking engagements at the San Ysidro and Otay Mesa, Calif., ports of entry, in the same area where a Mexican national — identified by law-enforcement authorities as a suspected alien smuggler — was fatally shot Dec. 30 by a U.S. Border Patrol agent who the Mexican purportedly targeted in a rock-throwing attack.

“It’s about detaining them as opposed to releasing them … it’s about the prosecution of people involved in human smuggling, about taking their assets, about sending them to jail,” Mr. Chertoff said.

Mr. Chertoff gave no cost estimates for the program and provided few details on how it would work, but he said it would begin in the San Diego area and later shift to other regions. It was unclear how many prosecutors would be added or how an increase in the number of cases they would handle would be financed with existing resources.

He said the plan would include an increased law-enforcement presence on the border, renewed efforts at intelligence sharing with other law-enforcement agencies, increased technology and the use of dogs to locate people hidden in vehicles.

Mr. Chertoff also announced the creation of a new border-enforcement task force to target cross-border criminal activity to gain control of the U.S.-Mexico border, working with federal, state and local law-enforcement authorities. He said the Border Enforcement and Security Task Forces will take a “comprehensive approach to dismantling criminal organizations that exploit our border.”

The next task force operation will begin in Arizona, he said, after Homeland Security conducts a threat assessment of the area.

Many Border Patrol agents have been shifted during the past few years to Arizona as a result of a federal law enforcement initiative in California known as “Operation Gatekeeper” that reduced the number of illegal aliens crossing into the United States. Arizona has since become the nation’s busiest alien corridor, accounting for more than half of the 1.15 million apprehensions last year.

Mr. Chertoff did not comment directly on the fatal shooting of Guillermo Martinez-Rodriguez, 21, who lived in Tijuana, Mexico, saying only that Border Patrol agents were under increasing attack from aggressive alien smugglers.

Border Patrol spokesman Raul Martinez in San Diego told reporters this week that Mr. Martinez was a known alien smuggler with a lengthy record of apprehensions by agents along the California-Mexico border. Border Patrol officials in Washington would not confirm the comments, saying only they were cooperating in an ongoing investigation.

Mr. Martinez fled back to Mexico after the 7:25 p.m. shooting and died five hours later at a Tijuana hospital. The Mexican government has denounced the shooting and asked the United States for an investigation.

Records show Mr. Martinez was apprehended by Border Patrol agents 11 times in the past two years trying to sneak into the United States. His brother, Augustine Jamie Martinez-Rodriguez, 33, whose arrest record includes assaulting a U.S. police officer, has been detained by agents on eight occasions and was with his brother at the time of the shooting.

The shooting occurred in one of the most violent areas on the border. A total of 78 agents have been assaulted in the region since Oct. 1, the start of fiscal 2006.



Click to Read More

Click to Hide