By DANIEL NEWHAUSER
Cronkite News Service
NOGALES (Wednesday, April 15) _ U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Wednesday that $212 million in federal stimulus money will upgrade the port of entry here and help create jobs in Arizona.
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano speaks Wednesday, April 15, 2009, during a news conference at the port of entry in Nogales. Napolitano said $212 million from the federal stimulus will improve the port and help Arizona’s economy. She also said Arizona will see increased law enforcement to deal with border crime.
(Source: Cronkite News Service Photo/Daniel Newhauser)
“Our goal is to make this Mariposa Port of Entry really a flagship for the entire border infrastructure of the United States,” the former Arizona governor said during a visit to the port.
The money coming here is part of the $500 million allocated through the federal stimulus to upgrade America’s ports.
Napolitano said the renovation of Arizona’s largest port of entry will include new inbound and outbound inspection lanes, new processing and inspection buildings, more kennels for dogs, enhanced building security and expanded parking.
“The ultimate long-term success of this project will be how coordinated it is with Mexico,” Napolitano said. “That will facilitate trade at this port and that will facilitate jobs in Arizona.”
Nearly 80 percent of all commercial trucks that cross into the Arizona from Mexico pass through the port here.
Margie Emmerman, executive director of the Arizona-Mexico Commission, which works to foster trade between Arizona and Sonora, said the upgrades will help Arizona’s economy.
“Any time you can facilitate the flow of goods, people, services, it will draw commerce to your state,” she said. “It is very, very exciting to see that the commerce side of the financial relationship is being focused on.”
Napolitano visited Nogales as part of a three-state tour of the Southwest border before heading to Mexico City late Wednesday to meet with the President Felipe Calderon of Mexico and President Barack Obama.
Napolitano also announced increases in the number of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and Border Patrol agents in Arizona and all along the Southwest border.
Arizona will see 50 of 95 new ICE Border Enforcement Security Task force agents nationally. The number of Department of Homeland Security intelligence analysts will be tripled nationwide, with six of those positions being placed in Arizona.
Arizona will also see 10 new ICE detention officers to deal with violent criminals and 10 new ICE border liaison officers to coordinate U.S. and Mexican law enforcement.
License plate readers and mobile X-ray machines will also be added to the Southwest ports of entry along with canine detection teams specializing in finding weapons and money being smuggled into Mexico.
“We have started southbound operations to prevent guns and cash going into Mexico that are being used to funnel those large drug cartels that are fueling the violence just south of our border,” Napolitano said.
Octavio Garcia-Bon Borstel, Nogales’ mayor, said he was more than happy to see federal involvement in a problem that is so close to home yet so expensive to fix.
“It’s obvious that we don’t have the resources to treat this critical problem that we are currently living in,” he said. “We need to make sure that the citizens that are legally in the United States feel secure in their own country while making it efficient for those who want to travel legally to the U.S.”
Napolitano also said she wanted to foster ties between federal, state, local, tribal and Mexican officials.
Nogales Police Chief William Ybarra said he’s been having regular phone conversations with Department of Homeland Security representatives about issues here. That’s a big improvement from recent years, he said.
“Now we’re in a position to say, ‘Good, you opened up funding. How do you want us to use that funding?’” he said. “We’re going to meet some huge goals and objectives that this part of the country has needed for many years.”