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New sector chief admits Border Patrol has ‘challenges ahead of us'

February 23, 2001|By KELLY RAUSCH, Staff Writer

The new El Centro sector U.S. Border Patrol chief spoke of his general goals for maintaining and improving the department during a press conference Thursday.

Kenneth Stitt, a former assistant chief patrol agent in the San Diego sector, officially assumed his duties here Tuesday.

Saying the agency has "a lot of challenges ahead of us," Stitt plans to look at the Border Patrol's resources and determine if they are being utilized to their best extent.

Stitt said he wants to continue looking at methods of maintaining and improving border control.

"Deterring people from coming in is most important," Stitt said.

"In the long run, that's the way to minimize the tragedies," he said.

The cooperation of law enforcement officials on both sides of the border will be necessary to successfully counter illegal immigration, Stitt said.

"I believe we can work with the Mexican officials," Stitt said in response to a reporter's question regarding the integrity of Mexican officials.

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He added no agency on either side of the border is immune to integrity issues.

Stitt pointed to the recent meeting between U.S. President George W. Bush and Mexican President Vincente Fox so early in their terms as a good sign for relations between the countries.

Community involvement is also a priority for Stitt.

"I want to see the Border Patrol become as active as possible in the community," Stitt said.

Stitt said he's already impressed by the amount of community involvement in devising ways to save immigrant lives.

He thinks "the sincerity of the people and their intent is good."

"I want improved safety, not just for immigrants but for agents, too," Stitt said.

Stitt will oversee Border Patrol operations throughout the Imperial Valley.

The El Centro sector, the second busiest along the Mexican border in terms of apprehensions, has been without a permanent chief since Thomas Wacker's retirement from the position in July.

Staff Writer Kelly Rausch can be reached at 337-3441.

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