|TRAFICANT, James A., Jr.,|
Monday, January 26, 1998
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant, Jr. (D–OH) today called on the Pentagon to not abandon armed military patrols along the U.S.-Mexico border. In a letter sent this afternoon to Secretary of Defense William Cohen, Traficant expressed his deep disappointment over the Pentagon's announcement yesterday that the Department of Defense will permanently cancel armed military patrols along the U.S.-Mexico border. "Quite frankly, our country is being invaded by narco-terrorists and illegal aliens," said Traficant in his letter to Secretary Cohen. "What better way to quell this invasion and protect our national security than by utilizing the United States military."
Traficant has been an outspoken advocate of expanding the use of U.S. military forces along the border to assist federal law enforcement agencies in stopping drug trafficking and illegal immigration. Last year the House overwhelmingly approved his amendment to the fiscal year 1998 defense authorization bill authorizing the deployment of up to 10,000 U.S. troops along the border. The amendment was dropped in the Senate.
"According to federal law enforcement sources, between five and seven tons of illegal drugs are smuggled across the border every day," noted Traficant in his letter to Cohen. "Thousands of aliens are flouting federal immigration laws and crossing our borders illegally daily. Federal agencies are complaining of being outmatched in both manpower and firepower by the drug lords and their henchmen." Traficant pointed out that retired-General Barry R. McCaffrey, chief of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, stated in his introductory letter to the 1997 National Drug Control Strategy that "there is perhaps no other issue that cuts across more areas of national concern than does drug policy."
Between 1993 and 1997, Congress substantially increased the Border Patrol's budget, from $362 million to $727 million, and the number of Border Patrol agents has increased from 3, 991 to 6,848. "Everybody, it seems, finally understands the urgency and legitimacy of a concentrated drug control policy," asserted Traficant. "I strongly believe that the United States would be making a grave mistake in policy by ending military patrols as a counterpart to the Border Patrol and the Customs Service in fighting the war on drugs."
Traficant believes that the Pentagon's decision to cancel armed military patrols on the border is a knee-jerk reaction to shooting last year of a U.S. citizen, Esequiel Hernandez, by U.S. Marines participating in maneuvers along the border as part of Joint Task Force Six. Traficant maintains that there are procedures that the Pentagon currently uses that could be implemented to minimize or eliminate the likelihood of another Hernandez-type incident. Traficant noted that before the U.S. deploys troops to Bosnia or Haiti, it requires the troops to undergo specialized training. "It should be no different for any domestic military activity," said Traficant. "Should a decision be made to deploy troops to the Southwest border to assist with drug interdiction, the military personnel on that mission should receive special training to minimize the possibility of confrontation with civilians."
Traficant has authored legislation authorizing the use of military personnel to assist federal law enforcement in patrolling border areas. The bill establishes a training program for troops being deployed on our borders to ensure that military personnel receive the proper training in border security procedures. The Traficant bill also directs a civilian law enforcement officer to accompany any deployment of troops to search, seize, and/or arrest any person who is suspected of criminal activity. Finally, the bill directs the Attorney General or the Secretary of the Treasury to notify the Governor and local officials in any state where military troops are deployed.
Traficant concluded his letter to Cohen by noting that "the military has the technology and manpower we desperately need on our borders. The White House has indicated that we need more than 20,000 federal agents to properly patrol the border. We are not even close to meeting that figure. The United States military has proven to be effective in assisting law enforcement to secure our border. It is a vital tool that should not be taken away."2009