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Permanent DHS Checkpoints Planned For Arizona Highways (special report - part 7)

Written by Subject: Arizona's Top News
Part 7 of a 14 part video series highlighting a town hall meeting organized by Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords appears above. The meeting was held on September 2, 2009 in Green Vally, Arizona to discuss/debate a recent GAO report on internal suspicionless homeland security checkpoints.
In this video, members of the audience express their concerns regarding the GAO report and the proposed permanent homeland security checkpoint planned for I-19 South of Tucson. First to speak is a representative for the Coalition for a Safe and Secure Border which also maintains this outdated blog

A synopsis of the coalition's concerns appear below along with a response from Tucson Sector Border Patrol Chief Gilbert:

* The GAO report confirms the Border Patrol is proceeding with checkpoint plans absent adequate information regarding the effectiveness of the proposed checkpoint or its adverse impact on local communities.
* Southern Arizona communities are growing quickly and any permanent checkpoint will most likely create real (traffic) problems for these communities such as those routinely experienced in Southern California
* The GAO report was riddled with errors regarding the cost effectiveness of internal checkpoints.
* The report failed to compare internal checkpoint operations with other Border Patrol operations that don't involved stopping and seizing individuals absent suspicion at internal checkpoints.
* The GAO report made it clear the Border Patrol over-stated the performance of internal checkpoints for both years covered by the report, 2007 and 2008.
* The coalition indicated its strong disagreement with the Customs and Border Protection policy of allowing over 70% of illegal traffic through Ports of Entry thus making internal checkpoints necessary in the first place.
* The coalition indicated the federal government should be protecting us at the actual border instead of harassing us at internal checkpoints.
* The coalition pointed out the GAO conclusion that the vast majority of seizures and interdictions inside the country are taking place around checkpoints as opposed to at them.

In response to these statements and observations, Chief Gilbert spoke.

First, Gilbert claimed the 70% statistic regarding illegal traffic that makes it past the border is not because of Border Patrol failures but rather Customs and Border Protection policy at Ports of Entry. Chief Gilbert tried to distance the Border Patrol from this statistic claiming it had nothing to do with the Border Patrol even though I've been documenting Border Patrol agents and Customs and Border Protection agents working closely together at internal checkpoints.

In response to the coalition's claim that most of the Border Patrol's checkpoint seizures aren't taking place at the actual checkpoints but rather around them, Gilbert indicates this is one of the purposes of the checkpoints - to drive illegal traffic into areas that slow them down. In so doing, Gilbert reinforced the claim that the checkpoints are forcing illegal traffic into local communities and endangering people and property in the process.

Chief Gilbert goes on to indicate the Border Patrol collaborates closely with local and state enforcement efforts while ignoring the fact that numbers from the GAO report make it clear border interdiction operations are far more effective than internal checkpoint interdiction efforts.

Specifically, figure 1 on page 14 of the report shows that approximately 320,000 apprehensions took place along the border in the Tucson sector while figure 7 on page 25 shows that Tucson sector checkpoint agents apprehended approximately 1,800 illegal aliens. Page 35 of the GAO report indicates the Tucson sector deploys on average 8% of sector personnel to internal checkpoints. Given that the sector had approximately 3,000 agents in 2008, 240 were assigned to checkpoints. This means that on average, each checkpoint agent in 2008 was responsible for apprehending 8 illegal aliens. In comparison, each agent conducting any other Border Patrol operation in the sector was responsible for 116 interdictions. This makes it pretty clear that checkpoint operations are far less effective at interdicting illegal aliens than actual border operations.

After Chief Gilbert finished responding to the Coalition for a Safe and Secure Border, another audience member rose to speak. This speaker made the following points (many of them similar to previous points already made):

* GAO report data doesn't conclude that checkpoints are being operated efficiently or effectively.
* The GAO report indicated the Border Patrol overstated checkpoint performance.
* If the multi-year GAO study couldn't conclude that checkpoints were being conducted efficiently and effectively, why was the government considering spending $40,000,000 on a permanent checkpoint in Southern Arizona?
* Moving ahead with an internal checkpoint presumes that the border will never be secured and the problem will always be with us
* The speaker then made the point that the U.S. is the largest user of marijuana and cocaine per capita in the world while other countries such as the Netherlands that take a decriminalization approach to the drug issue use far less drugs per capita then we do (to find out more about decriminalization, consider what the organization LEAP has to say).
* The speaker also indicated his FOIA or Freedom of Information Requests to the Border Patrol/DHS have been ignored over the years, something I have experienced first hand as well.

Part 8 of this series will pick up with the Border Patrol's response to the speaker along with further feedback from the audience.

Links to part 1 through 6 of this video series appear below:  

Part 5


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