Department of Justice Seal

Attorney General Prepared Remarks

Visit to All American Canal
Calexico, California
July 24, 2001

Good afternoon. I'm very pleased to be back on the Southwest border. I'm particularly pleased to be here with the men and women who sacrifice everyday to protect this border and to ensure the safety of those living and traveling along it.

This Administration is committed to establishing and maintaining a safe, orderly border. And strengthening border management is yet another sign of the unprecedented level of cooperation that characterizes the relationship between the United States and Mexico today. When Presidents Bush and Fox met in Guanajuato, Mexico in February, they announced the creation of a high-level working group to address migration issues. This group, which I co-chair, has been very active since its first meeting in April.

One of our chief concerns has been how to improve safety along our shared boundary. Both the United States and Mexico recognize that protecting the border includes an obligation to protect lives, particularly the lives of those being put in harm's way by smugglers.

Neither government can fulfill this obligation alone. In 1998 the United States and Mexico launched a Border Safety Initiative that aims to educate the public about the dangers of illegal crossings and to enhance our ability to rescue those who fail to heed these warnings.

U.S. border patrol agents from all nine sectors that cover the Southwest Border recently met with their Mexican counterparts to focus exclusively on border safety issues. One of the most important measures agreed to in these meetings was the designation of the All-American Canal as a "high-risk zone." The canal may be placid in appearance, but many migrants have lost their lives trying cross it, swept away by the swift undertow.

As part of the high-risk designation, the INS has agreed to deploy additional resources along the canal. These include the installation of 100 permanent lights along its banks. These new lights, together with those already in place, will illuminate more than 10 miles of the canal, hopefully discouraging would-be crossers from making a fatal mistake.

The El Centro Sector has also added 20 all-terrain vehicles, more than doubling its existing fleet. These vehicles will allow agents to step up patrols along the banks of the canal, as well as in remote, rugged sections of the surrounding desert.

Public safety will be further enhanced by the creation of a Border Patrol Search, Trauma, and Rescue Team. Expanding the number of BORSTAR teams was another one of the steps agreed to during the recent U.S.-Mexico border meetings, and we are now training agents to meet this commitment.

Currently, we have BOSTAR teams in San Diego and Tucson. When new agents graduate next week we will have enough trained personnel to establish teams in El Centro and Yuma. A second training session tentatively scheduled to begin in September will allow us to meet our ultimate goal of establishing a BORSTAR team in every sector along the border.

Although El Centro already has search and rescue capabilities, a BORSTAR team will allow this sector to respond faster to emergency situations under a greater variety of conditions. BORSTAR team members receive extensive training in search and rescue techniques, navigation, medical treatment, and communications.

Expansion of the BORSTAR teams will also allow us to meet another goal that came out of the recent border safety meetings - expanded training with Mexico. Last year, team members shared their expertise with more than 400 Mexican law enforcement officials. This year, we are fully committed to increasing that number. Joint training not only results in better-trained agents, it also fosters mutual trust. And for our border to be safer, more secure and more orderly, we must have both these elements.

As I continue my border tour today and tomorrow, I look forward to talking to those people on the frontline to determine what more we can do to help you do your jobs. Border agents are called on to play many roles. I recognize that the job of providing border safety is a challenge in addition to the many you confront every day. I congratulate you on accepting this challenge . And I thank you -- and your country thanks you -- for answering yet again the call to duty.