Border’s Man of the YearJan 2nd, 2009 | By Michel Marizco | Category: General News, Immigration, Politics
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THE BORDER REPORT
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Ralph Basham made one of those grandiose “tour de border” that government officials are so fond of taking earlier this month; sweeping through the Arizona sectors of the Border Patrol and frankly, doing absolutely nothing more than giving himself a media opportunity – which the local press was more than happy to provide him.
Myself, I’ve never known what questions to ask guys like Basham. What answer can he possibly give to any direct question? “We’re winning the war against illegal immigration,” maybe? Or go the way of Laredo Sector Border Patrol Carlos Carrillo and bust out with “we’re here to fight terrorists,” not illegal immigration or drug trafficking as I’ve been brought up to believe.
Basham, a Bush appointee from 2006, is one of those men who will get to keep his job when the Obama administration starts up. Mostly, his Arizona border tour wouldn’t be worth much more than a cursory glance at the fawning stories the media seems to love showering men like him with, but then I noticed this:
The commissioner “personally wanted to see the street sign,” Yuma Sector spokesman Ben Vik told the Yuma Daily Sun.
The street sign in question is one named for Border Patrol agent Luis Alberto Aguilar. A runaway drug trafficker murdered the 32-year-old agent while he was laying down spike strips in Yuma sector, trying to stop the narco’s Hummer.
The resulting fiasco between the Justice Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Attorney’s Office at once embarrassed the entire contingent of U.S. border officials and serves as a nearly pristine example of the ineptitude and presumed – for the moment – backroom dealings that the United States engages in with its management of this border.
Aguilar, an agent for six years, did nothing exceptional to earn my vote for the U.S.-Mexico border’s Person of the Year except die doing his job. His bosses on the other hand, his employers and the threads of the security net that is supposed to surround these cases failed him miserably. As a result, Aguilar’s case languishes, a meager $350,000 reward still floating around for information on his killers.
We like to think of the Feds as capable individuals, men and women who are at once street-smart and educated, able to untangle criminal cases with the best uses of science, technology and historical knowledge of their jurisdictions.
In Aguilar’s case, now nearly a year old, it was the Mexicans who did their job. The Americans somehow managed to forget the case for more than four months.
A drug trafficker, whom, it appears, is now working as an informant for the United States, turned himself in weeks after Aguilar’s murder. Macedonio Guerrero surrendered to port authorities at the border and was turned over to FBI. From what I can tell, Guerrero gave up the driver of the Hummer, Jesus Navarro. Guerrero, wanted on a 2003 drug trafficking charge, was indicted on one count of possession with intent to distribute in May. He’s disappeared yet again. A U.S. District Court judge forfeited his $5,000 bond this last October for failure to appear and he’s gone; either working for the Feds or disappearing back to Mexico.
Navarro on the other hand, was picked up by Sonora State Police in Ciudád Obregón and languished in a cell in Mexicali for the next five months.
The Americans never came for him, never filed an extradition request, never asked any questions, never reached out to Mexico for information on him, nothing. Finally, a Mexican judge dropped the case, and released him.
Still the Americans did nothing. Homeland Security Sec. Michael Chertoff issued a statement about how “shocked and appalled” he was with Mexico. I’m going to assume he didn’t know his own people forgot about Navarro. The alternative is too strange to contemplate.
The sad truth is that much of the “border security” discussed in Congress and in the media and in the interior of the country works a lot like Aguilar’s case. Walls are put up and agents are swarmed in to calm the American voters down while in the shadows, high-level murder cases like that of Aguilar languish and die.
If the murder of one of their own colleagues doesn’t inspire U.S. border authorities to do the job we pay them to do, what can we expect from them on any other level?
During his border tour, Basham said Aguilar did not die in vain. “His death has brought a tremendous amount of change.”
That little statement brings out another level of the ineptitude with which this border is managed.
In the end, not a damn thing has changed.
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