Prepared Remarks of Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey at the State of the Border Press Briefing

WASHINGTON, Feb. 22 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following are the prepared remarks of Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey at the State of the Border Press Briefing: Good Afternoon. Thank you Secretary Chertoff. The security of our...


WASHINGTON, Feb. 22 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following are the prepared remarks of Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey at the State of the Border Press Briefing:

Good Afternoon. Thank you Secretary Chertoff.

The security of our borders raises issues basic to us as a nation. The ability to control who -- and what -- comes into and out of a country is one of the most important attributes of a sovereign government, and being able to do that is vital to our nation's security.

Despite Congress's failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform, we have done a lot to help secure our borders over the last few years, but there is still a lot to be done. This is especially true in connection with our Southwest Border.

Addressing the many problems associated with the border is among my highest priorities. Because of that, one of the first trips I made as Attorney General was to the Southwest Border and to Mexico , an indispensable partner in our border enforcement efforts.

On that trip -- just over one month ago -- I visited the Port of Entry at Nogales, Arizona, and took a helicopter trip along the border. I met with the federal prosecutors and law enforcement officers who serve on the front lines of the effort to secure our borders. I met with a group of judges who preside over many of the cases that the Department brings. I also met with the five United States Attorneys whose districts comprise the Southwest Border.

I came away from that trip with an appreciation for the challenges and complexities we face along the Border, and the resources needed to address them. My subsequent work on these issues has deepened my understanding of the challenges we still face.

One of the main lessons I learned is that one size does not fit all...that flexibility is key. That's true for two reasons. First, each border sector, and each border district, has its own challenges, its own issues, and its own opportunities based on terrain, traffic flow, crime patterns, and resources. What may work in one sector or district doesn't necessarily work in another.

Second, the situation on the border is dynamic. That is, the criminals we are dealing with -- alien smugglers, drug smugglers, gun smugglers, and the like -- watch carefully where we are and what we do. In my helicopter trip along the border, for example, I was shown how smugglers have deployed car-battery-operated surveillance equipment to track the movement of our law enforcement agents. As we adjust our practices and policies, the smugglers adjust theirs accordingly. It is crucial, therefore, that we change our tactics from time to time, and place to place -- that we stay one step ahead of those we're trying to stop.

Although one size doesn't fit all, as is true elsewhere, it is absolutely critical that we work together -- that the left hand knows what the right is doing. It doesn't make our country as a whole any safer for one district to solve a problem by pushing that problem into another district.

Mindful of these challenges, the Justice Department is developing a Southwest Border enforcement strategy that is not only comprehensive, but also flexible in responding to the particular needs and challenges of each sector and each district.

Working closely with our partners at the Department of Homeland Security, one of our main goals is to reduce incentives for people to come to this country illegally. Put another way, we are seeking to raise the costs of coming here illegally -- especially for those who come here illegally and commit additional crimes, like narcotics trafficking and gun trafficking. For example:

-- As Secretary Chertoff announced a few minutes ago, next week we are increasing civil fines imposed on employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants by 25 percent, the maximum allowed by law and the first such increase since 1999; we are also working with DHS to increase criminal prosecutions against the most egregious employer offenders.

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