June 19th, 2009
01:44 PM ET
11 years ago

Border Czar tours his domain

NOGALES, Arizona (CNN) - The Blackhawk helicopter swoops across the hot, wind-blown Arizona desert and settles onto a cement pad.

The new U.S. Border Czar, Alan Bersin, has arrived to inspect operations at one of his most critical facilities, the Maricopa port of entry just outside Nogales, Arizona.

It's the largest port of entry in Arizona, handling about 1,500 commercial trucks a day, making it a major trade corridor between the United States and Mexico, Officer James Tong of U.S. Customs and Border Protection tells Bersin.

It is also a major corridor for the smuggling of cocaine, heroin and marijuana into the U.S.

Last year, 37,000 pounds of marijuana were seized along this arid stretch of border. And on the day of Bersin's visit, two teenage girls were caught trying to sneak heroin past border guards in Nogales.

"That told me that in reaction to increased enforcement ... the cartels are ... recruiting teenagers as their new couriers," said Bersin.

Bersin said the Obama administration is forging a new alliance with Mexico in the campaign to combat the drug cartels.

"This is now viewed as a set of problems that we share in common," he said.

The cartels are implicated in more than 7,000 killings last year, including the assassination of police, judges and high ranking government officials.

"We're very concerned about the spillover of the kind of public shootings where bystanders are caught between the cartels and between the cartels and the government," he said.

The solution, he said, is to stop not only the flood of drugs to the north, but also the flood of guns and money south into Mexico. His troops are charged with stopping the traffic in both directions. He was told that so far this year more than $2 million in narco dollars have been seized in Nogales.

Bersin's trip to Arizona is part of a week-long blitz of the U.S./Mexico border, from Texas to California. He said his appointment as the nation's first Border Czar reflects the seriousness of the smuggling issue.

"It is a national security issue," he said.

The other hot button issue on the border, illegal immigration, has taken something of a back seat in Bersin's trip to the southwest.

In fact, illegal immigration is down more than 30 percent over this time last year, Bersin said; the poor economy is the major reason cited. Apprehensions of illegal border crossers are at low levels not seen since the 1970s, he said.

Bersin said the Obama administration distinguishes between immigration and smuggling issues.

"They are different problems caused by different situations....we feel the impacts at the border, but indeed the issues are separate."

Seven hundred million dollars in federal stimulus funds are earmarked for border security projects.

People in Nogales are anticipating a hefty share of those monies. Recently acquired X-ray equipment is already searching trucks coming across the border for signs of drug and human smuggling. And Customs and Border Protection officers are looking more closely for guns and money headed in the opposite direction.

Just one week before Bersin's visit, customs officers were filling with cement an underground tunnel that led from Mexico into the United States - a pathway for the drug cartels, authorities said.

It was the 16th such tunnel to be destroyed in more than six months.

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soundoff (42 Responses)
  1. Scot in Maricopa County


    Sheriff Joe has been notorious for his civil rights violations. There have been twice as many deaths in his jails than any other system in the US. Now he's racial profiling individuals for the sake of trying to enforce FEDERAL laws that he has no duty enforcing. His deputies are instructed to target anyone with brown skin to confirm their citizenship, regardless of any reasonable cause (in fact, my wife and I were driving home one evening on a county road. All of the sudden, out of nowhere, a deputy pulls up along side turns on his side light to get a good view of me. Since I'm white, he then sped off, looking for the next car that may have a hispanic person in it.)

    June 19, 2009 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  2. Darth Vadik, CA

    You know the last people who tried to sneak in and bomb America, came thu the Canadian border (milenium bomber people, wake up), oh yes, and the "evil" Clinton prevented it,

    prevented = the opposite of not prevented (ie 911 by Bush)

    June 19, 2009 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  3. SLM

    Another Czar!! does his job count under the job creation category??

    June 19, 2009 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  4. Nelson Colorado Springs Co.

    U.S. Border Czar, Alan Bersina has the second hardest job next to President Obama

    June 19, 2009 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  5. Steve (the real one)

    Somebody has to do the pre-census, census! That is to count bodies as they cross the border. No need to ask their poltical party of choice. We all know! Hee-haw!

    June 19, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  6. jm

    Close the border now. We don't need yet another czar, we have a director of homeland security which should be in charge of this. Quit expanding government needlessly Obama.

    June 19, 2009 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  7. Jesus Rodriguez

    Reason the Democrats are doing such a thing; it is because they are spineless with no sense of responsibility. We need more Sheriff and law enforcement like Sherriff Joe Arpaio. If we enforced our statues and prevent illegals from coming into our country, we will not be spending money that we could be spending on our legal citizens. We need to protect our borders. Why it is so hard for this nuckleheads to understand that the illegals are taking and drying out our resources.

    June 19, 2009 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  8. jm

    They don't want to close down the border. It's all a plan to form a North American Union.

    June 19, 2009 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  9. Andi

    I lived in that part of AZ 20 years ago. It's about time someone took that area seriously.

    June 19, 2009 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  10. steve

    Mr. Condor,

    The port of entry in Nogales in Mariposa not Maricopa. Maripcopa is a county in Arizona. Cement is an ingredient for concrete. The Blackhawk landed on a "concrete" pad.

    June 19, 2009 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  11. Carl Childress

    Yo... Jon... the czar didn't go to Maracopa county – he was in Nogales at the Maraposa Port of Entry. Spend a couple of minutes looking at a map, huh?

    June 19, 2009 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  12. Tate

    You cant make this stuff up, welcome to Russia people The great leader Obama.

    June 19, 2009 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  13. bk

    The czars are created to by pass congress, so Obama can do anything he wants and they answer to no one. Wake up people!

    June 19, 2009 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  14. DawnL,CA

    The reason illegal immigration is supposedly down 30% is because they are crawling through tunnels to get to the US so as not to get caught. I agree completely with "Jon in Ca" regarding Sheriff Arpaio. They should have made him the "Border Czar". BTW-don't we have enough czars?

    June 19, 2009 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  15. makesUwonder

    Can't wait to see you when you come to Houston in September Sheriff Arpaio!!

    June 19, 2009 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  16. mmg

    Obama is an IDIOT!!! plain and simple...for someone who was not going to have czars (another campaign promise broken) he sure has come up with alot!!! NO MORE !!! if your here illegally then go back or get out...I work hard for my money and I am tired of supporting illegals... I love the way Sherriff Arpolo's runs his prison...maybe he could take Obama and the rest of his tax cheating liars to his prison for an extended stay...PLEASE!!!!

    June 19, 2009 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  17. Jen

    Close the border! Let all these xenophope racists leave first, then close the border. Make sure they're outside first though before you close it. Really don't care where they end up. Swim home to Europe for all I care.

    June 19, 2009 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
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