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Thu, June 27

Kirkpatrick conducts first official tour of border

Courtesy photo<br />U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick talks Monday with Guadalupe Ramirez, Nogales Port of Entry director. <br /><br />

Courtesy photo<br />U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick talks Monday with Guadalupe Ramirez, Nogales Port of Entry director. <br /><br />

U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick made her first official visit to the U.S.-Mexico border Monday, just a week after someone killed an Arizona rancher on his property near the Mexico border.

"I don't know if they'll ever know who shot him," Kirkpatrick said, adding evidence shows someone shot 58-year-old Robert Krentz in the back. Authorities tracked a suspect's trail 20 miles to the border.

Kirkpatrick met with the Border Patrol's Tucson sector chief, then visited Border Patrol agents in Nogales to hear about their needs.

"They've been seeing an escalation in the brutality of the cartels," she said.

The agents asked for more manpower, technology and infrastructure, including roads, fences and night-vision goggles, she said.

She viewed the border's virtual fence technology, watching four monitors that relay night-vision images along the border.

"It was clear to me they like the technology," Kirkpatrick said. "The clarity is impressive." However, she said she is concerned about cost overruns.

The first time the monitors captured something moving, "out trotted four javelina," Kirkpatrick said.

But the second time a monitor captured an image of a group of smugglers with backpacks, she said.

While fences don't always prevent illegal crossings, they at least delay crossings and give agents time to respond, she said.

Kirkpatrick said she is concerned about wildlife's ability to cross the border, but new fence designs appear to allow for animals the size of jaguars to squeeze through.

Kirkpatrick drove along some rough roads with border patrol agents and said she was struck by the roughness of the terrain and roads. She agreed more roads are necessary.

The agent accompanying her decided to avoid one new two-track because of the danger.

The experience renewed her commitment to border security, said Kirkpatrick, who is the only member of the Arizona congressional delegation serving on the House Homeland Security Committee.

She has sponsored two pieces of legislation related to border security.

The Border Violence Prevention Act of 2009 (H.R. 1867) seeks to provide more technology, weapons and armor for border protection.

The Anti-Cash Smuggling Act of 2010 (H.R. 4941) seeks to close a loophole that allows people to take large amounts of cash from the United States to Mexico through prepaid cash cards.

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