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Senator, Border Patrol Union, Question Effectiveness of Current Border Strategy

United States Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) sent a letter Wednesday asking the Homeland Security Department to answer questions about border security and efficient use of agents along the U.S.-Mexico border. The letter comes as the push for immigration reform continues in Congress.

The Senator met with Border Patrol union officials from the Tucson Sector last spring. They reported problems with how U.S. Customs and Border Protection deploys its agents along the Mexico boundary. For example, McCain notes in his letter the use of forward operating bases, border outposts that agents patrol from, aren’t a practical strategy for controlling the border. 

Shawn Moran, vice president of the National Border Patrol Council union, agrees.

"We feel that there is a militarization of the Border Patrol for no other reason than to make it look like the military," Moran said.

He says some of these border outposts sit in areas where very little illegal smuggling takes place.

McCain also demanded to know whether a recent rise in border apprehensions signals a decrease in border security. That is something that even auditors at the Government Accountability Office have spent more than a year trying to determine.

McCain’s questions on the critical issue of border security are among the first of their kind put to the new Homeland Security Department Secretary Jeh Johnson. 

Doris Meisner, head of the Migration Policy Institute in Washington DC, says McCain may also be pushing against a Republican-controlled House of Representatives that has criticized the Senate's push for a comprehensive immigration reform package.

"Those members of the Gang of Eight in the Senate have had to take quite a beating in the last six or eight months from their counterparts in the House," Meisner said.

McCain’s letter details other questions about the fairness of Border Patrol agents’ pay. it also comes just as the House has begun hinting at progress in creating its own version of an immigration bill.

Fronteras Desk senior editor Michel Marizco is an award-winning investigative reporter based in Flagstaff.