Show and Tell With the New U.S. Border Czar
NOGALES, Arizona -- The newly appointed border czar Alan Bersin landed at the Mariposa Port of Entry here in a Black Hawk helicopter owned by the Department of Homeland Security. Bersin was on a quick inspection tour, to rally the troops and show the locals that the feds were here to spend some serious cash money.
The helo was a nice touch.
Funds are pouring into border security these days through a fire hose of federal spending. Fear of drug violence, coupled with concerns over terrorism and illegal immigration, have sent budgets for the Customs and Border Protection agency into orbit.
Bersin was in Nogales to tout the soon-to-be remodeled port of entry, which is receiving an injection of $200 million from the Congressional economic stimulus package. Construction to begin almost immediately.
In a bus tour, Bersin listened to James Tong, assistant director of the Tucson field office for customs and border protection (CBP), as he reeled off some stats: Agents here have seized 1400 pounds of cocaine and 32,000 pounds of pot since October. They lead the nation in seizures of heroin -- 252 pounds last year. Nogales processes almost as many arrivals as LAX and JFK airports combined. On a busy day, 20,000 people and 1600 trucks pass through the port. During the winter months, more than 60 percent of the fresh vegetables consumed in the United States come through Nogales.
Bersin did a fast grip and grin with alert CBP agent Glady McNamara, who fortuitously had snagged two smugglers attempting a “body carry” that very morning. One was a 14-year-old girl. A new trend by smugglers is use children to mule small loads. The two were carrying a half kilo of heroin each. Both were Americans. Nice job, Bersin said, as
McNamara was given the traditional reward for a good catch -- a couple of gift certificates to Applebees.
After the tour, we got a couple of minutes to ask Bersin some questions about what we have seen so far on our journey along the border.
Check out the video to hear his thoughts.
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