The L.A. Times would like you to know that things are so quiet along the Mexican border that, doggone it, our border patrol agents are having a tough time staying awake on the job.
The border fence ran right in front of Jeff Byerly's post, a straight line of steel that stretched beyond town and deep into the desert. As a U.S. Border Patrol agent on America's front line, Byerly's job was to stop anyone from scaling the barrier. Hours into his midnight shift, his stare was still fixed, but all was quiet.
He pounded energy drinks. He walked around his government vehicle. On the other side of the fence, the bars in the Mexican town of San Luis Rio Colorado closed, and only the sound of a passing car broke the silence. Byerly, 31, switched on his DVD player. Minutes later, a supervisor knocked on the window: The slapstick comedy "Johnny English" was on; Byerly was fast asleep.
Wild foot chases and dust-swirling car pursuits may be the adrenaline-pumping stuff of recruitment efforts, but agents on the U.S.-Mexico border these days have to deal with a more mundane occupational reality: the boredom of guarding a frontier where illegal crossings have dipped to record low levels.
Porous corridors along the 2,000-mile border do remain, mostly in the Tucson area, requiring constant vigilance. But beefed-up enforcement and the job-killing effects of the great recession have combined to reduce the flood of immigrants in many former hot spots to a trickle.
Let's now take a break from the narrative and check back in with reality.
The federal government’s failure to protect Americans from foreign drug cartels, human smugglers, and potential terrorists was echoed by Richard M. Stana, the Government Accountability Office’s director of homeland security and justice issues, who told the Senate Homeland Security Committee last month that the federal government has operational control of only 129 miles of the southern border, which presumably includes the extra five miles that took federal bureaucrats the last two years to negotiate.
“The difficulties encountered by the Border Patrol to gain operational control are not the result of poor management or lack of resources,” Gene Wood, former deputy chief patrol agent in the Tucson Sector, told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the Natural Resources Committee last week. “It is simply an issue of denied access” by the Interior Department - which is clearly more interested in antelope than in national security.
“Environmental policies cannot take precedent over the safety and security of all Americans and that is exactly what is occurring today,” said Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, chairman of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands.
Rep. Bishop has introduced a bill that would prohibit Interior from using environmental regulations to prevent the Border Patrol from doing its job.
As our border with Mexico runs 1,954 miles that would be approximately 7 percent of that border of which we have control.
And as far as the environment goes...
...perhaps allowing the Border Patrol to do their job might be of some actual value to the Department of the Interior. Just a thought.