Obama Off to New Mexico, But Will He Visit U.S.-Mexico Border?

By Fred Lucas | September 27, 2010 | 5:55 PM EDT

Border vehicle fence in New Mexico (El Paso district). (Photo courtesy of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol)

(CNSNews.com) – With few natural or man-made barriers along its southern border, New Mexico--site of a Tuesday visit by President Barack Obama--is particularly vulnerable to drug traffickers, according to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).

“Most of the New Mexico/Mexico border area is open desert, barren and generally uninhibited. This terrain offers drug smugglers easy access into the United States and to major interstate highways,” the ONDCP’s profile of New Mexico states.

“The most significant drug threat in New Mexico is the transshipment of drugs and drug proceed(s) by Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations (MDTOs),” the state profile continued. “These MDTOs have also established local poly-drug distribution organizations that are capable of distributing multiple kilogram quantities locally and regionally.”

Last week, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told a Senate panel that drug cartels posed a national security threat to the United States.

The president departed for New Mexico from Andrews Air Force Base Monday afternoon on his way to Albuquerque. On Tuesday, he is reportedly scheduled to meet with a local Albuquerque family at their home and then host a discussion on the economy with middle class families in the area.

But there are no published plans for Obama to visit the New Mexico-Mexico border, which the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) says provides “smugglers easy entry into the U.S. and access to major highways which traverse the country.”

The White House also did not respond to inquiries from CNSNews.com about whether the president planned to visit the border while he was in New Mexico. Rather--after Albuquerque--he is reportedly scheduled to travel to Madison, Wis. and Des Moines, Iowa, to stump for Democratic candidates and attend Democratic National Committee events.

Meanwhile, the state of New Mexico has an overloaded court docket and has scarce prison space to deal with the state's problems related to illegal immigration and drug smuggling.

“The U.S. District Court in New Mexico has the highest case load per judgeship in the nation and has the fourth busiest court overall in the United States,” a DEA analysis of the state said.

“The overwhelming percentages of caseload confronting the U.S. District Court in New Mexico are immigration and drug cases. In addition to the overloaded court system, the state of New Mexico is critically short on jail space.”

The DEA analysis of the state further says: “New Mexico’s proximity to the El Paso/Juarez area is an additional vulnerability to illegal drugs smuggled through the major POEs [ports of entry]. Additional threats to the region are the shipments of controlled substances via commercial vehicles, including aircraft, buses, and by Amtrak rail. New Mexico is also considered a hub for significant amount of drug proceeds being laundered through small business.”

Cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin and marijuana are the drugs most prominently smuggled across the border into New Mexico, according to the DEA.

Regardless of whether he observes the border first-hand, Obama has addressed the border concerns in New Mexico, said Jude McCartin, spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.).

Obama has signed legislation that provided $6 million to build forward operating bases in Lordsburg, N.M., and Antelope Wells, N.M., for U.S. Border Patrol agents. Forward operating bases are outposts that allow Border Patrol agents to patrol closer to the international border.

“There’s a huge amount of infrastructure construction taking place right now,” McCartin told CNSNews.com Monday. “Much of it has been made available through this administration. We’ve got a lot of our funding for construction there, so there’s a lot of good infrastructure upgrades taking place right now that I’m sure the president knows about. There’s a lot of good stuff going on that we are sure the president is aware of because his administration is helping make it happen.”

Bingaman, Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Rep. Harry Teague (D-N.M.) asked Napolitano for increased border resources in a March 29 letter, shortly after an Arizona rancher was murdered by illegal aliens near the New Mexico state line.

“Although the Border Patrol force strength is now a record 20,000 agents and the apprehension rate along the southern border is at the lowest level since the 1970s, it is clear that more still needs to be done to fully secure our nation’s border,” the letter from the three New Mexico Democrats said.

Now New Mexico is experiencing new problems, such as a dramatic increase in the number of people without Social Security cards and driver’s licenses, and an increase in school enrollment, in large part from illegal aliens leaving Arizona where a tougher immigration law was recently passed, and coming to New Mexico with more lax policies, said Ira Mehlman, spokesman for Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform (FAIR), a pro-border enforcement advocacy group.

Mehlman told CNSNews.com he doesn’t necessarily want the president to visit the border while he is in New Mexico. Rather, he wants to see Obama take on the issues of border security.

“For him to go to the border would be a photo op. We don’t need a photo op,” Mehlman said. “He should be addressing the border concerns, he knows what they are. Our open border is a threat to national security.”