Friday, March 13, 2009

HS Subcommittee Hearing on Mexican Border Violence

Yesterday the House Subcommittee on Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism held a meeting to look at violence on the Mexican border. All five of the witnesses were from various parts of the Department of Homeland Security. It was an interesting discussion about the current state of affairs on that border and what DHS was currently doing and could do in the future to deal with the situation. While there was an acknowledgement of the seriousness of the current situation, two interesting points were made. First that violent crime was actually down in US border cities like El Paso. Second, the drug cartel violence, according to the DHS Attaché to Mexico, was limited to the Mexican border states and was not a problem in the rest of the country. Both of these observations (neither of which were questioned by the Committee) run counter to a lot of what has been appearing in the press in the last month or so. DHS is promising to beef-up their efforts to stop guns and money from going South, but admit that there is not a lot of infrastructure in place to do that effectively. All of the inspection type checkpoints, for instance are on the inbound lanes not the outbound lanes of roads crossing the border. Southern Border Security Task Force Interestingly, a member of this subcommittee introduced a bill (HR 1437) on Wednesday, calling for DHS to: “To establish a Southern Border Security Task Force to coordinate the efforts of Federal, State, and local border and law enforcement officials and task forces to protect United States border cities and communities from violence associated with drug trafficking, gunrunning, illegal alien smuggling, violence, and kidnapping along and across the international border between the United States and Mexico.” The bill would make DHS the lead agency for this task force. It would have 180 days to get the TF set-up and another 180 days to report back to Congress on its efforts. It would also appropriate $10M to fund the effort. The bill was referred to both the Homeland Security Committee and the House Judiciary Committee for review. No Mention of Chemicals Once again there has been no mention of the significant commercial trade in hazardous chemicals that crosses this volatile border. There are still no provisions for physically checking the railcars of TIH chemicals that cross from Mexico into the United States for IEDs or other signs of tampering until they change hands (carrier-to-carrier, or carrier-to-receiver) somewhere in the United States. Even carrier-to-receiver inspections are not required by current TSA rules unless the receiver is located in an HTUA.

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