WASHINGTON (AP) - A former Justice Department official has been
picked to be the Southwest border czar - a new position created by
the Obama administration to handle illegal immigration and border
issues, according to an administration official.
The new Homeland Security Department post will be responsible
for issues related to drug-cartel violence along the U.S.-Mexico
border and the hundreds of thousands of people there who try to
enter the U.S. illegally.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is expected to name
Alan Bersin to the position on Wednesday during a visit to the
Southwest border, the official said. The official would speak only
on condition of anonymity ahead of the announcement.
Napolitano, who is making her second border trip in two weeks,
will be discussing the agency's efforts to curb the flow of illegal
immigrants, guns and drugs along the border. Last year customs
officials apprehended 792,321 people who tried to get into the U.S.
through the Southwest border, and immigration officials removed
more than 369,000, according to Homeland Security Department
The Obama administration has promised to crack down on border
violence and work with Mexican authorities against drug cartels.
Hundreds of federal agents, along with high-tech surveillance gear
and drug-sniffing dogs, are being deployed to the Southwest.
In his new capacity, Bersin will work with international
officials and their counterparts in the U.S. and border states.
From 1993 to 1998, Bersin was the federal prosecutor who led the
government's crackdown on illegal immigrants at the
California-Mexico border. Bersin and Napolitano were both U.S.
attorneys during the Clinton administration.
During his final three years, Bersin doubled as the U.S.
attorney general's Southwest border representative, or "border
Under Bersin's watch, the U.S. government rolled out Operation
Gatekeeper, a massive increase in border enforcement in the San
Diego area that pushed migrants to cross illegally from Mexico in
the remote mountains and deserts of Arizona.
The Justice Department did not know if or when this border czar
position was eliminated. Justice spokeswoman Laura Sweeney said top
Justice officials still perform these roles, and the deputy
attorney general chairs a Southwest border working group in the
Most recently, Bersin was chairman of the San Diego County
Regional Airport Authority. He also served under California Gov.
Arnold Schwarzenegger as the secretary of education.
Earlier, Bersin was the superintendent of San Diego public
schools. At the time, Hispanic groups decried the appointment and
said Operation Gatekeeper caused a steep increase in deaths by
forcing immigrants to attempt treacherous mountain and desert
crossings into the United States.
Obama and Napolitano travel to Mexico this week to meet with
Mexican President Felipe Calderon.
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