Monday, November 20, 2006

Operation Linebacker targeting immigrants, not crooks

I have to say, I've suspected as much:

Via Capitol Annex I ran across this excellent El Paso Times investigative report by Brandi Grissom. She crunched the data and found "border sheriffs are using federal dollars meant to fight drugs and violent crime to enforce federal immigration laws." For every one arrest made, she found, sheriffs' departments receiving Operation Linebacker funds reported seven suspected illegal immigrants to the US Border Patrol.

Great reporting job, Ms. Grissom. Operation Linebacker is the name of Governor Perry's election-year block grant program giving money to 16 local sheriffs departments along the Texas-Mexico border. I've actually been hoping someone would do this analysis; it just took a reporter willing to file some open records requests and do a bunch of grunt work. I'd encourage anyone interested in the subject to read the whole thing.

I've argued that those federal grant funds or any new border enforcement money should go first toward investigating police corruption before expanding patrols through short-term overtime. All the extra patrols in the world don't help if the supervisor directs them away from the drug loads. During the gubernatorial campaign it was revealed that claimed reductions in border crime were mostly statistical hoakum.

Aiming local law enforcement funds at immigrants instead of drug smuggling outfits at the border makes little sense - IMO it was an example of bad, hopefully tranistory election-year policy that the Governor won't continue ad infinitum. These data show the sheriffs' current use of Operation Linebacker funds is focusing very little on crime and mostly on immigrants. Grissom's analysis gives the Governor and the Legislature a fine excuse to shift grant money and other new border security fundstoward tracking down corruption and targeting drug cartels.

UPDATE: Via South Texas Chisme, the Laredo Morning Times followed up:
The Webb County Sheriff’s Department captured more than 700 undocumented immigrants and made 18 drug arrests in the first six months of Operation Linebacker, a state and federally funded program intended to bolster security and combat drug activity, violence and terrorism along the Texas-Mexico border.“We have 18 drug arrests and 700-something illegal immigrants?” said an incredulous County Judge Louis Bruni after hearing about the report.
BLOGVERSATION: Infamy or Praise offers thoughts on the Times analysis. So does Borderland Observer. Rio Maginot decries the dropoff in church attendance caused by the tightened border.

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