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Our Opinion: New BP chief has big mission

February 27, 2001

We are pleased to see a permanent sector chief for the local U.S. Border Patrol sector. Kenneth Stitt comes to the Imperial Valley after serving as an assistant chief patrol agent in the San Diego sector. He appears to have the experience to serve this unique border area, which for much too long has played second fiddle to the San Diego sector.

Stitt pointed out during a recent press conference that there are many challenges ahead for the Border Patrol in this area. He plans to look at local resources to see if they are being utilized in the best way. We hope he will work to bring even more agents to the Valley. We sense that trying to control illegal immigration into the Imperial Valley is a daunting task and there simply are not enough agents here to do so.

Stitt wants to first deter people from coming into the United States illegally. He also wants to work more closely with the Mexican government and law enforcement to stem illegal immigration. A closer working relationship can be beneficial in dealing with border issues.

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We urge Stitt to have a strong voice in dealing with Washington, D.C. He needs to keep reminding headquarters that the Imperial Valley is facing a number of critical issues stemming from illegal immigration and we need more help because we remain among the top few areas for illegal immigration. We need him to remind the folks in the nation's capital that securing Imperial County's border is every bit as important as keeping vigilant at the San Diego area border. We are a human and drug corridor and those are not problems that will be solved easily.

There are no immediate answers to border issues, but we are convinced Stitt will take steps to make the Border Patrol here stronger in the long run. We support him in his effort to make the border a safer place for his agents and those who cross the border illegally.

It is important to remember most illegal immigrants are just people looking for a better life. While they are committing an illegal act by crossing the border, most are not hardened criminals.

Unfortunately, too many undocumented immigrants are dying in our waterways and our deserts. Stitt is in a position to help save lives. That is a noble cause. We wish him luck. It will take time and patience, but with the right leadership, our border can become a safer and more secure border.

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