|TRAFICANT, James A., Jr.,|
February 5, 1998
Washington, D.C. – U. S. Rep. James A. Traficant, Jr. (D–OH) was joined today by 14 other House Members in urging Defense Secretary William Cohen to continue armed military patrols of the U.S.-Mexico border. "Use of the United States military has proven to be an effective tool in patrolling our border. It should not be taken away," said Traficant and his House colleagues in a letter sent this afternoon to Cohen.
The letter was prompted by recent news accounts indicating that the Department of Defense will permanently cancel armed military patrols along the U.S.-Mexico border. Traficant's letter was co-signed by U.S. Reps. Dennis Hastert (R–IL), Asa Hutchinson (R–AR), Mark Souder (R–IN), Frank LoBiondo (R–NJ), Benjamin Gilman (R–NY), Martin Frost (D–TX), Edward Royce (R–CA), Brian Bilbray (R–CA), Duncan Hunter (R–CA), Ralph M. Hall (D–TX), Sue Myrick (R–NC), Karen Thurman (D–FL), Jack Kingston (R–GA), and Nathan Deal (R–GA).
In 1997, the U.S. Border Patrol seized $1.46 billion worth of illegal drugs between points of entry, the bulk of it at the southwest border. "Federal agencies are complaining of being outmatched in both manpower and firepower by the drug lords and their henchmen," noted Traficant and his House colleagues. "Since the Reagan Administration, the military has assisted federal law enforcement in fighting the war on drugs. It would be a grave public policy mistake to terminate such an effective and proven anti-drug strategy."
The joint letter to Cohen also pointed to a Congressionally-mandated report issued two months ago by the National Defense Panel which stated, in part: "...the apparent ease of infiltration of our borders by drug smugglers, illegal immigrants, and contraband goods illustrates a potentially significant problem. It suggests that terrorist cells armed with nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons could also infiltrate with little difficulty. Better coordination between those national agencies charged with gathering intelligence outside our borders and with those charged with protecting our citizens and territory will be an absolute requirement. Coordinated intelligence, when coupled with the close integration of efforts by the Navy, Coast Guard, other government agencies, and local authorities, should be able to stop the majority of those who would cross our borders for illicit purposes."
Traficant believes that the Pentagon's reluctance to continue armed military patrols of the border stems from the fatal border shooting last year of a teenage American citizen, Esequiel Hernandez, by an armed military patrol. Traficant maintains that there are procedures that could be implemented to significantly minimize the possibility of an accidental shooting of an innocent civilian by U.S. military troops patrolling the border. "Before the United States deploys troops to Bosnia or Haiti, they must undergo specialized training to introduce them to specific issues they would face while serving their mission," noted Traficant and his House colleagues. "It should be no different for any domestic militaryactivity."
Traficant has been the lead advocate in Congress for expanding the role of the military in federal efforts to interdict illegal drugs along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last year, the House approved a Traficant-sponsored amendment to the defense bill authorizing the deployment of up to 10,000 U.S. troops along the border. The amendment was dropped by the Senate. Traficant has called for Congressional hearings on expanding the role of the military in the war on drugs and patrolling the border.
Traficant has introduced legislation authorizing the expanded use of military personnel to assist federal law enforcement in patrolling border areas. The bill also establishes a law enforcement training program for troops being deployed on the border, mandates that a civilian law enforcement officer must accompany any troops deployed along the border, and directs the federal government to notify state and local officials in any state where U.S. troops are deployed. Traficant intends to continue pressing Congress to adopt his legislation.2009