The Homeland Security Committee, led by U.S. Congressman Michael McCaul, visited the Rio Grande Valley Sector, along with U.S. Border Patrol Chief Michael J. Fisher, on Jan. 25, 2015, to get a firsthand look at border security operations in the area. The delegation began their border tour a few days earlier in the San Diego and Tucson sectors before wrapping it up in RGV.
The representatives’ visit to RGV Sector started off at the McAllen Station where they were briefed on border security operations by Chief Patrol Agent Kevin Oaks and Deputy Chief Patrol Agent Raul Ortiz. The main topic of discussion focused on the challenges posed by the large amount of refuge land in the sector’s area of operations. Additionally, CPA Oaks and DCPA Ortiz discussed some of the resources deployed throughout the sector such as aerostats.
The discussion was turned over to Division Chief Robert Duff, who described current apprehension levels and trends. DC Duff said apprehensions are down 20 percent overall and family unit apprehensions are down 10 percent. He said the decline is due to the normal seasonal changes in flow, consequences that have been implemented and messaging campaigns. In addition, DCPA Ortiz said the government of Mexico has started enforcement operations on Mexico’s southern border that have helped reduce the number of immigrants who make it to the United States.
Finally, Ivan Zapata with U.S. Public Health Services discussed the fact that having trained staff (medical doctors, physician’s assistants) to diagnose immigrants after apprehension has reduced hospital visits by 85 percent, which allows agents to perform enforcement duties instead of monitoring immigrants at the hospital.
Following the briefings the delegation took a tour of the Rio Grande by boat. The river tour provided them an excellent opportunity to see firsthand some of the challenges agents face in securing the border. They also received a demonstration of the capabilities of the Horse Patrol unit as well as the all-terrain vehicle and motorcycle units.
The group also toured the Centralized Processing Center in McAllen, Texas, that was established during the recent influx of unaccompanied children. They wrapped up their tour with a visit to the aerostat in Peñitas where they got a look at the capabilities this technological asset has to offer to border security.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.