U.S. Rep. Ron Barber participated in a law enforcement roundtable and visited the border in Southern Arizona today with Janet Napolitano, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
"I was pleased to see local law enforcement officials, the secretary and Border Patrol leadership discuss the state of border security," Barber said. "The Tucson sector remains one of the most porous areas of the border and I continue to urge all relevant partners to come together to address these challenges."
Also in attendance at today's law enforcement roundtable were Gil Kerlikowske, National Drug Control Policy director; Thomas Winkowski, acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection; Cochise County Sheriff Mark J. Dannels and police chiefs from communities across Cochise County.
Barber later toured a portion of the border with Napolitano, Winkowski and Kerlikowske.
"Congressman Barber has been a close ally on the issue of border security," Dannels said after the meeting. "I appreciate the partnership our office has had with the congressman and that he has been a clear voice on the needs for local law enforcement and Cochise County with regard to securing our border and representing the concerns of the citizens of our county. All local law enforcement have united with the common goal of securing our border."
Later this afternoon, Barber will meet with local residents, ranchers, Border Patrol agents and other groups about the current state of border security.
Barber acknowledged that although there has been progress in border security, much work remains to be done. Barber has consistently been concerned about the porous border area east of Douglas to the New Mexico line.
"In the area east of Douglas, it is not uncommon for ranchers to encounter armed drug smugglers and other people who are in the country illegally," Barber said. "That is why we must continue to press for proper staffing and resources along the border, especially in these communities."
In February, Barber met with Napolitano in Nogales to discuss border issues. Shortly after, he invited her to visit Cochise County to assess the border security problems in more rural areas.
Barber also has pressed for specific measurements needed to accurately assess progress toward a more secure border.
Barber has called on Napolitano to cancel plans to furlough Border Patrol agents and cut their overtime as part of budget cuts mandated by sequestration. Barber reiterated this request when he met with Napolitano today.
The forced unpaid leaves and cuts in overtime would have resulted in a salary reduction of up to 40 percent for agents working along the nation's southern border.
Those cuts were to go into effect this weekend. But DHS officials said they would be postponed and re-evaluated in light of additional funding provided in legislation that Barber supported. Barber welcomed the delay, but urged an expedient and transparent process to maintain staffing levels and overtime.