U.S. lawmakers talk border security in Douglas

U.S. lawmakers talk border security in Douglas

CREATED May 23, 2011

Reporter: Joel Waldman
Web Producer: Layla Tang

DOUGLAS, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) - At the urging of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' office, three U.S. Congressmen from around the country came to Douglas over the weekend to get a first hand look at border security.

The trip was arranged by the office of Rep. Giffords, who is recovering in a Houston rehab facility from an assassination attempt that took place in January. The Blue Dog Democrats said Giffords had been urging them to make the trip long before the shooting.

"I'm here to show my support for Giffords' efforts to help secure our border," said Georgia Democrat, Rep. John Barrow.

"Congresswoman Giffords was relentless in asking members to come to her district," said Rep. Jason Altmire. "This is the second time now that I've done this. We had talked about it last year, making this very trip, so I'm glad that working with her staff we were able to do it."

During the visit, the Congressmen toured the Douglas Port of Entry and had lunch with Douglas-area ranchers. Warner Glenn took them on a tour along the border. His family has been herding cattle in the Douglas area since 1896. He told KGUN9 and the congressional visitors that he has seen problems along the border get worse.

"For a while it got worse every year until about two years ago when they built this barrier," Glenn said, referring to a recently-erected "Normandy-style" border fence. "At that time, it was building up to the point that about three years ago, there were drive throughs coming through here, hauling drugs. At that time it was just a barbed wire fence. They could cut that fence, come right through, and hit the main road and go west or east. It got to the point where there were two or three loads a night going through. Now it's down to where there are hardly any drugs at all through here. What this barrier has done is put most of the drug traffic into the mountains."

Pennsylvania Representative Jason Altmire said he was glad to see the federal government had helped build the "Normandy-style" fence. He acknowledged it was a barrier for some, but not all.

"What concerns me about seeing this is, yes, vehicle traffic might be more limited, but what are you doing to keep the people from getting into the country?" he asked.

Glenn had an answer for that question. Give more money and manpower to U.S. Border Patrol, he said.

"The Border Patrol needs a lot more resources. Surveillance-type equipment, communications-type equipment. Helicopters, that type of aerial back-up," Glenn said.

Glenn told KGUN9 it meant a lot to him that the three congressmen would visit Douglas and listen to his input about what should be done at the border.

"It really makes us feel good that they have an interest to come down here and look and see what's going on," Glenn said. "We appreciate it very much. It's an honor to have them."

Rep. Altmire said he was eager to make the trip because illegal immigration is an issue that has far-reaching effects in all parts of the country, not just along the U.S.-Mexico border.

"It's a concern for Pennsylvania. There's an economic impact to illegal immigration, there's a jobs impact, and there's a national security impact. It affects Arizona uniquely because are the people who live and work on the border, but it affects the whole country," Altmire said.

The congressmen said they regretted that their friend Gabby Giffords couldn't join them on the trip she had been planning for so long, but they all said they believed she'd be back in the House soon talking border security again.

"You bet. She's a good friend and a universal favorite in the House of Representatives," said Rep. John Barrow.