Drug War 40

The global war as seen from the center of North America

Rodriguez: Keeping America safe

From the office of Congressman Ciro D. Rodriguez (TX-23)

The headlines are becoming all too familiar:

“Border violence threatens Americans”

“Drug violence scares off tourists to Mexico”

“Mexico border city relives nightmare of violence”

Texas is my home. I’ve worked and raised my family here and now I represent the 23rd Congressional District in Washington, D.C. It’s a special and diverse district with unique characteristics and special challenges. With 785 miles of contiguous border with Mexico, it also lies smack on the frontlines of our nation’s security.

I recently visited the community of Fort Hancock, where nearby Mexican drug cartels have people looking over their shoulders, students are wondering who might show up at their school. Fear and intimidation have moved into town. But Fort Hancock isn’t alone. The recent killing of an Arizona rancher still under investigation and the murder of Border Patrol Agent Robert Rosas near San Diego remind us of the potential for violence, particularly in rural areas.

Combating this widespread violence means working together, across levels of government, to ensure that our communities are safe. I propose several key strategies to help us get there:

– Increase federal funding for Operation Stonegarden
– Work closely with the U.S. Border Patrol to strengthen its presence along targeted border areas
– Call on Texas Gov. Rick Perry to direct more federal funding received by the state to the border regions through the Homeland Security Grant Program
– Propose a hardship duty pay for agents in rural and high-trafficked areas.
– Increase funding for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) and Southwest Border Prosecution Initiative (SWBPI)
– Increase Customs and Border Protection officers and expand technology at our ports of entry

Partnering is absolutely imperative when it comes to dealing with these challenges. We can continue to throw federal money at the problem, but if those dollars don’t end up where they’re needed most, we’ll only spin our wheels and fall further behind. I, along with my Border Delegation colleagues, recently sent a letter to Governor Perry, asking that he direct more of the federal funding our Delegation has fought for to the sensitive border regions where it can do the most good. In the last four years, an average of $125 million per year in federal Homeland Security money has gone to Texas, but as little as 3 percent actually made it to the border. That is unacceptable.

I have also asked for an additional $50 million to supplement Operation Stonegarden, a Department of Homeland Security program that funds law enforcement operations along the border. That program, which I helped to expand in 2007, is currently funded at $60 million annually and promotes cooperation and coordination between Federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies operating along the United States borders.

And by funding our agencies with more resources and personnel, we will continue to ensure a motivated, high-caliber workforce committed to the mission of protecting our communities, even as threats increase.

It’s time for all of us to get on the same page and deal seriously with the threats on our borders. The men and women who make it their business to protect and defend us deserve that. So do the hardworking residents who want nothing more than to work and raise their families in a safe environment.

This is serious business. If our efforts are piecemeal, we will fail. If our motivations are political, we can’t win.

# # #

Congressman Ciro D. Rodriguez is a former social worker who currently serves on the
House Committee on Veterans Affairs and the powerful House Committee on Appropriations. For
more information about Rodriguez, see his website at http://rodriguez.house.gov or
contact his Press Secretary, Rebeca Chapa, at rebeca.chapa@mail.house.gov.

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Filed under: Government and NGO Resources, opinion

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