- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The 22 new police officers the Interior Department added to national parks and wildlife refuges along the U.S.-Mexico border have already arrested 13 illegal immigrants and recovered one gun, the government said Wednesday.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke deployed the new officers to federal lands along the U.S.-Mexico border on Monday, looking to help with the administration’s all-hands-on-deck approach to stiffening enforcement.

He said the officers, working closely with the Border Patrol, nabbed one group of 11 illegal immigrants on Tuesday, and another two on Wednesday. Those latter two were from Sri Lanka and were hiding in the brush on federal lands, the government said.

The additional officers are also helping identify layup areas where illegal immigrants hole up during their trip, waiting either for an all-clear to continue or resting in the heat of the day.

Those areas are usually found with piles of trash, water jugs and clothing that migrants discard during their trip.

“President Trump and I are 100-percent committed to keeping our border communities and the American people safe and secure, which is why I’m deploying additional law enforcement officers to increase security of Interior-managed lands on the southern border,” Mr. Zinke said in a statement announcing the arrests.

The arrests were all made by officers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which runs a number of wildlife refuges along the border. The Interior Department also runs national monuments along the border.

Interior Department officers are already on the border in those lands, but Mr. Zinke’s move sent more of them down there specifically to assist in border security.

Unlike National Guard troops, who are playing a non-enforcement supporting role, the new officers are able to directly assist the Border Patrol in apprehending illegal immigrants and smugglers who are bringing people, drugs and firearms across the border.

Federal lands have long been seen as a soft spot in border security. Environmental rules have stymied some efforts to post sensors or Border Patrol agents inside those lands.

In one extreme example a majority of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, run by the Park Service, was shut down for more than a decade because of the illegal immigrant and smuggling traffic through the Arizona park. The former park superintendent regularly battled the Border Patrol’s efforts to step up enforcement.

A new superintendent has struck a more cooperative role, and the park is once again open.

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