The Obama administration and Mexican government officials recently discussed creating a three-tier security system designed to protect Mexico’s southern border from drug and human traffickers, according to U.S. officials.
The border control plan calls for U.S. funding and technical support of three security lines extending more than 100 miles north of Mexico’s border with Guatemala and Belize. The border security system would use sensors and intelligence-gathering to counter human trafficking and drug running from the region, a major source of illegal immigration into the United States.
According to the officials who discussed the U.S.-Mexican talks on condition of anonymity, the Mexican government proposed setting up three security cordons using electronic sensors and other security measures along the southern Mexican border, along a line some 20 miles from the southern border, and along a third security line about 140 miles from the southern Mexican territorial line.
The plan would be funded in part through the Merida Initiative, a U.S.-led anti-drug trafficking program that has involved nearly $2 billion in U.S. funds.
The plan apparently is being kept secret within the administration over concerns that disclosure would fuel Republican critics of the administration’s record on border security.
Asked to comment on the southern Mexico border security plan, Rep. Ted Poe (R., Texas), a senior member of the House Homeland Security subcommittee on immigration, said he opposes the effort.
“We need to take care of the United States first when it comes to border security,” he told the Free Beacon. “The United States seems to be very concerned about protecting the border of other nations and needs to be more concerned about protecting our own border.”
Recent congressional assessments have contradicted White House claims that during the Obama administration U.S.-Mexico border security improved.
The Government Accountability Office stated in a June 23 report that Customs and Border Protection and DHS claims of progress in stemming illegal border crossings are difficult to confirm. The agency challenged the accuracy of the government reporting process for the number of apprehensions of illegal immigrants, a figure that the White House said has shown a decline in illegal border crossings.
“Opportunities exist to improve DHS’s management of border security assets,” the report said, adding that DHS had problems deploying electronic surveillance technology on the Southwest border.
A separate Congressional Research Service report published in May said data on illegal immigration was not designed “to measure illegal border flows or the degree to which the border is secured.”
The Mexican online news outlet La Journada reported July 29 that references to discussions on Mexico’s southern border during the Napolitano visit were initially included in an official Mexican government press release, but were later removed for unexplained reasons.
The final statement said “the Government Secretary, Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, and U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, today led a meeting to talk about strengthening border security of our country, in order to achieve an orderly migration flow and respect for human rights.”
The newspaper speculated that omitting the word may have been designed to hide U.S. and Mexican plans for joint action on the southern border.
A U.S. official who is critical of the proposed U.S. support for Mexico’s southern border security program said the U.S.-Mexican talks on the southern border were reported inside the U.S. government recently and show “hypocrisy and disdain for American security.”
“The administration appears more concerned about the security of Mexico’s southern border than defending our southern border,” the official said.
The White House apparently favors allowing more illegal immigrants into the United States, the official added.
Last month, a 20-page White House report on immigration and American agriculture concluded that farmers would face labor shortages if immigration laws were enforced.
“Without providing a path to earned citizenship for unauthorized farmworkers and a new temporary program that agriculture employers would use, a significant portion of this farm workforce will remain unauthorized, thereby susceptible to immigration enforcement actions that could tighten the supply of farm labor,” said the report, which was reported on by the Washington Times July 29.
The Merida Initiative, also called Plan Mexico, is a security cooperation pact between the United States and Mexico aimed at countering drug trafficking, organized crime, money laundering and securing the border. Since its launch in 2008, Congress has appropriated $1.9 billion.
The administration asked Congress to provide $234 million for the program in fiscal 2013 and for this fiscal year is seeking $183 million, mainly for training, equipment and intelligence support.
“Congress may wish to examine how well the Mexican government’s security strategy supports U.S. interests in Mexico,” a Congressional Research Service report published in June stated.