Promises Focus on Border, Port Security
Less than a month after being sworn in, new U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has made his second trip to the South Texas border. Johnson toured border operations in McAllen on Tuesday to get a first-hand look at how things are done, and to meet with state and local leaders about improving border and port security. After his tour, Johnson said he got one very clear message. "We have to keep continued focus on border security and on port security, particularly in places like South Texas, and that is something that has been impressed upon me," he told reporters. However, the secretary added that his job is also more complicated than that. "Homeland Security is not simply border security and port security," said Johnson. "But it is also facilitating and expediting trade and commerce."
One of those who accompanied Johnson on the tour was Texas Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo), who tells KTRH he stressed the importance of a comprehensive approach to security. "What we want to do is to make sure that Texas stays as the number one state for trade...half of all the goods going into Mexico come through Texas," says Cuellar. He feels it's shortsighted to only focus security efforts on the border. "The port in Houston is important, and the border in Laredo is important, so we've gotta make sure we secure the border but don't impede trade and tourism," says Cuellar.
There's no denying the increase in activity along the Texas-Mexico border. Last year, Texas border agents made 235,567 arrests, by far the most of any state along the Mexico border. Now, some help may be on the way. The omnibus spending bill signed by President Obama last week includes funding for 2,000 more customs officers at ports of entry around the country. Texas is expected to get about 200 of those officers. Congressman Cuellar says he wants to make sure Texas gets its "fair share" of the funding. "One of the things we want to see is more coordination between the federal, state and local folks...there's something that we've got to make sure we improve."