Deming Headlight: Border issues bring out Sen. Heinrich

By:  Jesse Moya

DEMING — In light of recent safety concerns in the boot heel region of New Mexico, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) toured the area with local U.S. Border Patrol agents inspecting safety measures in place. In addition, Sen. Heinrich allowed time during his visit to sit and talk with local ranchers about their safety concerns in the rugged border region of Hidalgo County.

Attention has been given to Hidalgo County in the past few months regarding a rise in burglaries and other illegal activities affecting people in the area. Many of these issues are speculated by the local population to be the result of illegal immigration and drug smuggling in the ranching areas of the county crossing from Mexico.

“Making sure that people who live in southern Hidalgo County feel more secure in their homes, that’s really key to having the kind of environment we want there,” said Heinrich.

Heinrich’s constituents in the area are having growing concerns for the possibility of violence increasing and further affecting their day-to-day lives. For these concerns, the focus is turned to U.S.Border Patrol for the safety of the area.

Border Patrol agents in Hidalgo County expressed their needs for more emphasis on horseback patrols along the border as well as the need for incentive programs to keep agents and their families wanting to be in the area. Often times, the southwestern corner of New Mexico can reach intense temperatures and harsh working conditions for agents and maintaining a constant group of agents would be key to the safety.

“The local residents are a huge part of the eyes and hears of that country,” said Heinrich, “and maintaining a good relationship with agents who have been there and been able to work for multiple years. That’s an important part of the solution.”

In 2014, Heinrich cosponsored an amendment for an increase of drug interdiction funding by $122 million in hopes of providing for a more secure border region. Amidst rumors of violence resurging in Mexico, U.S. Border Patrol looks to heighten their efforts along the border by adding more horse patrols to cover the more rugged terrain of the borderland.

During his visit, Heinrich’s tour took him across the southwestern portion of the state through some of the rough terrain where smugglers are giving U.S. Border Patrol the most issues. Though no ports of entry were on the itinerary, Heinrich understands the need to fund and support both the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents working at the ports of entry as well as the Border Patrol agents in the field.

“I think its very important for people to realize, that for us to effectively have a more secure border, we need to invest in both the border patrol agents and also the CBP officers who work those ports of entry,” said Heinrich. “Having a well-resourced border patrol is key, but we can never forget our officers who work at those ports of entry, they need to be just as well resourced.”

The senator’s visit was part of a two-day tour to collect issues and begin developing solutions to the issues many are facing on the border.