[JURIST] US Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano [official profile] on Wednesday appointed [press release] former federal prosecutor Alan Bersin as assistant secretary for international affairs and special representative for border affairs to oversee illegal immigration and anti-crime efforts along the country's borders. Bersin's duties will include improving relationships with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) [official website] and international, state, and local communities, as well as leading efforts to lessen violence [press release] along the US-Mexican border to "help Mexico target illegal guns, drugs and cash." Bersin and Napolitano conducted a press conference [AP report] on a bridge over the Rio Grande connecting El Paso with Ciudad Juarez, Mexico to address concerns that have been expressed in regards to the border. Bersin rejected requests by state officials to patrol the border with military personnel by referring to the Posse Comitatus Act [text] which provides that, except where specially authorized, the Army and Air Force should not act as law enforcement. Bersin also stressed the importance of not exaggerating any potential security threats that the border may pose. Napolitano addressed the recent border efforts and Bersin's appointment:
The Department of Homeland Security has taken strong action to put the right resources in key places along the Southwest border. Thanks to additional technology and personnel along the border, we are getting better intelligence leading to drug and weapons seizures and better identification of illegal and criminal aliens.
Alan brings years of vital experience working with local, state and international partners to help us meet the challenges we face at our borders. He will lead the effort to make our borders safe while working to promote commerce and trade.
Bersin previously served as a federal prosecutor for California’s Southern District, as the Special Representative for the Southwest Border for former Attorney General Janet Reno, as the Board Chairman of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority and as California’s Secretary of Education. He is scheduled to travel to the border communities of Del Rio, Laredo, Hidalgo, McAllen, and Brownsville to meet with local law enforcement and to discuss coordination efforts with federal, state, and local Mexican authorities.
In March, Napolitano announced a set of Southwest border initiatives [press release] to support a Mexican campaign against drug cartels. The initiatives were aimed at lessening the flow of cash and firearms from the US to Mexico, bringing more personnel to the border and to incorporate new technology at certain border locations to combat the drug trade. In September, US Customs and Border Protection [official website] informed Congress [JURIST report] that a proposed border fence [JURIST news archive] would not likely be completed.