Is the U.S./Mexico border safer now than it was two years ago?

Border Patrol Agent Roger San Martin said it’s a tough question to answer. What he is sure of is that the United States now has more personnel and advanced technology.

San Martin spoke to about 30 guests during the Marana Chamber of Commerce luncheon on June 16.

San Martin manages the Tucson sector, which covers 24 miles of border.

Looking back two years, San Martin said with 22,000 total border agents, the National Guard and advanced equipment, the tools are in place to battle the issue of safety. The real problem, he clarified, is violence.

With the death of a rancher in Douglas and a border agent in Nogales over the last year, San Martin said they are now more concerned with the guns, weapons and drugs being transported across the border. The drug cartels continue to become more violent, especially when compared to incidents from 10 or 20 years ago, he stressed.

“We may catch a load of drugs today, but at the same time, they probably got another 20 loads through,” he said. “The biggest issue with securing the Tucson sector is terrain. There is a lot of land with canyons and mountains out there. We really can’t access 16 of the 24 miles. We can see a group of illegals about 100 yards away, but (can’t reach them because) there’s a canyon there between us.”

San Martin said the bottom line is that there needs to be more roads built to make the Tucson sector more efficient.

While not wanting to get into the politics of the debate, San Martin said a guest worker program would stop a lot of the problems associated with illegal immigration.

“About 80 percent of traffic would shut down because there’s no reason to cross illegally,” he said. “Then we’ll just worry about the drugs and terrorists coming across.”

If a guest worker program is not created, San Martin said the alternative is to enforce sanctions on employers who hire illegal immigrants.

As for the controversial SB 1070 bill that gained national attention last year after being passed by the Arizona Legislature, San Martin said it makes no difference to agents in day-to-day operations.

“The police are already doing what they need to,” he said. “It really won’t change anything for us. It’s going to be business as usual.”

Before closing, San Martin said Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik’s department is one of the most cooperative when working with the Border Patrol, despite the sheriff taking a lot of heat in the media for coming out against

SB 1070.

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