When most Americans think of the Southwest border, they likely think of the terrestrial border that dates back to encounters with Santa Ana and beyond, and manifest themselves modern day threats from the likes of Los Zetas, La Familia and the Gulf Cartel. The means by which such drug trafficking organizations sustain their violent and illicit activities extend well beyond the U.S. / Mexico border and into the maritime approaches south of the Mexico border.
Earlier today, Rear Adm. Paul Zukunft, Assistant Commandant for Marine Safety, Security and Stewardship, testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security on Southwest border enforcement. During the hearing, Rear Adm. Zukunft provided an oral statement in which he discussed the unique role the Coast Guard plays in securing the U.S. Southwest border as America’s lead agency for maritime security:
“The Coast Guard plays a unique bridging role in the National Intelligence and law enforcement communities. As a full member of both communities our intelligence personnel have access to a myriad of national security information that when combined with law enforcement information results in a higher level of accuracy and a greater reach for support to intelligence driven operations. No other Federal agency has this cross-cutting level of access.”
Rear Adm. Zukunft reminded the committee that border security includes much more than protection against drugs and migrants. On our Southwest border it also includes protecting America’s Exclusive Economic Zone from foreign fishing vessel incursions, including U.S. commercial and recreational fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico. The EEZ generates billions of dollars in regional sales impacts and support 326,600 local jobs. Coast Guard efforts to secure our EEZ directly support these key industries.
Click here for a recording of the entire hearing which also included testimony from Thomas Winkowski, Customs and Border Protection Assistant Commissioner; Michael Fisher, chief, United States Border Patrol; James Dinkins, executive associate director, Immigration and Customs Enforcement.