DOUGLAS- Ariz.- U.S. Rep. Ron Barber was recently appointed to a leadership role on the Homeland Security Committee and with that role holds the responsibility of finding ways to improve the security along the Southwest Border.
The Department of Homeland Security has agreed to the Government Accountability Office’s new strategic recommendations. Barber and other public officials gave Arizona residents a brief overview of the GAO report in Douglas and Tucson earlier this week.
The Douglas Visitor Center was packed full of people from the Douglas area, which included many ranchers with concerns about their safety.
Barber expressed many times throughout the night that he puts a great deal of credibility into the residents of Douglas as well as other sectors along the border.
“We cannot access progress without this information from them,” Barber said.
GAO Director Rebecca Gambler enlightened the attendants of the public meeting in Douglas of the results from the GAO report, which included the new border safety strategic plan formulated using analyzed data from the GAO 2006 to 2011 fiscal years.
The strategic plan introduced the GAO observations including the number of “gotaways” and “turnaways,” as well as the number of repeated offenders.
“The Border Patrol is in the process of implementing the new strategic plan, so at this point its too early to assess how implementation will go,” said Gambler.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection requested resources to gain operational control of the border in 2004. Chief Patrol Agent Manuel Padilla said that agents have been equipped with modern technology, but only so much money is available. He believes that the implementation of the GAO report will address geographical problem areas and bring border patrol to those areas.
Gary Thrasher, a rancher and resident of Douglas, agrees that border patrol is at its best. However, the study is about the level of safety for Douglas residents.
“No fence will work unless its patrolled one way or another,” said Thrasher. He believes that a wall is beneficial but does not feel that it is the answer to everything.
Barber reminded attendees of the high rate of human and drug trafficking along the Southwest Border. He will be working with the DHS to ensure that they make progress in the effort to assure safety and security.
"We are going to make sure that we do everything we can to look at the resources within our community, so we can establish the best possible way to get a handle on this continuing problem that we have here in Southern Arizona," said Barber.