Peninsula Daily News - Focus On Terrorists First, Rep. Dicks Urges Border Patrol
Concentrate on catching terrorists and smugglers, U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks said he's told the Border Patrol. "Those are the things they should be focusing on," Dicks told the Peninsula Daily News during a wide-ranging interview Wednesday. Dicks, D-Belfair, said he had heard of citizens who felt intimidated by recent Border Patrol roadblocks on U.S. Highway 101.
In response, he said, he talked to David Aguilar, chief of the U.S. Border Patrol.
"What I said was to talk to his people and make sure they're handling this with dispatch and discretion," said Dicks.
"I hear the tone of the officers is pretty abrupt.
"Gruffness: That has turned people off. They need to try to treat people nicely, not try to terrify people."
Dicks said he understood the Border Patrol's role and the need for its increased presence in states that abut Canada.
In the Border Patrol's Blaine District that includes Port Angeles, agents have discovered illegal immigrants, small amounts of marijuana and some people wanted for crimes, he said.
"They haven't found a terrorist yet, thank God."
Police the shoreline
Dicks said he hoped federal agents would pay more attention to drug runners who drop off their shipments on Washington state's shorelines.
"More of a presence on the water would be more of a deterrent for terrorists and drug dealers."
Border Patrol checkpoints are taken for granted along the country's border with Mexico, but, "Up here on the Olympic Peninsula, we don't like to think about these things," he said.
Still, Port Angeles is where terrorist Ahmed Ressam in 1999 tried unsuccessfully to smuggle in explosives to blow up Los Angeles International Airport.
"You've got a drug issue; you've had Ahmed Ressam," Dicks said.
"We have to take this seriously."
Dicks also said he would support reforming the nation's immigration laws, especially to give young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. by their parents a chance to earn citizenship without leaving the country and hoping to re-enter.
Citizenship for children
The congressman cited the case of Edgar Ayala, the Forks High School honors graduate who hoped to enlist in the Marines but instead had to return to his family in Mexico.
"I hope we can work those things out for people like that," Dicks said.
"I hope there is a path we can work out if they're good students and haven't committed crimes."
Immigration reform, however, must take third place in line, he said.
"The economy is No. 1 and health care is going to be up there."
Dicks voted for the bill to bail out collapsing financial institutions even though "calls were 100 to 1 against doing it.
"I felt we had to act."
As for putting more people back to work, Dicks prescribed a program to repair the nation's deteriorating infrastructure and to develop "green" energy sources and applications.
"Roads, bridges, trails -- things that need to be done -- there's a huge backlog of those things," he said, calling to mind the Works Progress Administration of the Great Depression.
"Also, we can do the green energy thing, build new solar facilities and windmills."
By harnessing the Northwest's excess hydropower, he said, the region could lead the nation in plug-in hybrid automobiles and all-electric cars.
Dicks also called for action to retard climate change.
"I think this is real. I think it is happening faster than we think it is."
Spin-offs of global warning include acidifying oceans. Dicks said the phenomenon has produced so-called "dead zones" off Washington's coast and in Hood Canal.
Dicks said he felt for retirees whose IRAs and 401Ks have fallen in value.
"Let's hope the market recovers," he said, adding that if the bad loans the government has bought become valuable again, "we can make money on this thing."
'We got the message'
Meanwhile, "thank God we didn't follow [President] Bush and put Social Security into the stock market," he said.
"That was one where the American people stood up and said no, and we got the message and did what they said."
Other highlights of Dicks' conversation with the PDN included:
On NOAA in PA: Regarding the possibility that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would change its Seattle homeport on Lake Union to Port Angeles, Dicks said the city still is in the running.
Reports that Bellingham was "a done deal" are not true, said Dicks and Judith Morris, his district representative in Port Angeles.
Dicks said the agency visited Port Angeles at his invitation and still was looking at sites in Washington and Oregon.
NOAA will issue a formal request for proposals in November, Morris said.
On Elwha dams: "We're still working hard," Dicks said, on a water plant for the city of Port Angeles and one that will remove turbidity from the water when the dams are removed and sediment is released.
"This has been one of the big challenges in my career," Dicks said, "getting this thing done.
Dicks said he was out on a limb for saying so, but he expects bids to be let in 2012 with the dams removed by 2014.
"I'm really trying to hold this schedule."
On Olympic National Park: "We have been adding substantially to the national park program over the last three, four years."
As for ONP, "they're getting a few more people, which was desperately needed.
"You don't have people to take are of the trails; you don't have people to take care of the visitors."