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BORDER STORIES; Drawing the line on illegal immigration


Nancy Fay

9/30/2005 6:34:09 PM

If Congressman Daryl Issa had his way, the Border Patrol would close its Temecula checkpoint. It’s just too much inconvenience for too few results, he said.

It is a “myth that these permanent checkpoints significantly deter illegal immigration and smuggling,� Issa said in a September 2004 press release. “Freeway checkpoints cause traffic delays and consume valuable Border Patrol resources that could be put to more effective use elsewhere.�

If Patrol Agent in Charge Rick Salinetti had his way, the Temecula checkpoint would stay open every hour of every day. Even Christmas. That’s how important he thinks border security is.

Salinetti is losing this battle: Over the last year, every San Diego-Temecula commuter knows that vehicle checks at the border are few and far between. The agents are moving elsewhere. “The Arizona Border Patrol Initiative is the biggest national initiative right now,� Salinetti said. “All of the money and the resources for customs and border protection is getting thrown into Arizona.�

This office of the Border Patrol covers 3,800 square miles from Temecula to the Imperial Valley. “Los Angeles has always been the smuggling hub. Smugglers will take the aliens to Los Angeles, contact their relatives and their relatives will pay them. It used to be $200 to $300 per person; now it’s $1,000 to $1,500 or more. The cost has risen with the risk because of heightened security on the border.�

But over the last five years, smugglers are increasingly sending their cargo further and further from Los Angeles. One of the latest hot spots is the Ontario Airport, where smugglers drop off their charges for transportation throughout the country.

“Smugglers take them to the Ontario airport and they catch a plane to wherever they are going,â€? said Agent James Penny. “We see a lot of people going back east to New Jersey, Boston â€