Bersin to lead DHSÆs SW border crackdown
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced that Secretary Janet Napolitano has appointed Alan Bersin as assistant secretary for international affairs and special representative for border affairs.
Bersin held a similar post as the Justice Department's southwest border representative during the Clinton administration.
His primary brief will be to improve relations with Mexican, as well as state and local U.S., officials along the border to combat illegal immigration and the two-way smuggling that is part of the drug industry. Violence and assassinations have escalated in Mexico during the past year as the government there has launched a major assault on drug organizations. Bersin's appointment is part of a major U.S. initiative begun last month to support Mexico and prevent the drug war from spilling into the United States.
The Los Angeles Times and Associated Press broke the news one day earlier that Bersin would be named southwest border czar. He was also a serious candidate to be commissioner of Customs and Border Protection.
'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,' Napolitano said in a statement.
From 1995 to 1998, Bersin advised the attorney general on immigration law enforcement along the border and supervised anti-drug and human trafficking programs. He also dealt with cross-border trade issues.
As a federal prosecutor in Southern California before that, Bersin tripled felony prosecutions and had the heaviest federal criminal caseload in the country, according to DHS.
He recently was chairman of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority. He also served Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as California's secretary of education and headed the San Diego public school district for several years.
Bersin does not require Senate confirmation for the post and began work immediately. He is already en route to Del Rio, Laredo, Hildago, McAllen and Brownsville, Texas, to discuss ways to coordinate federal efforts with those of local partners.
Napolitano on Wednesday visited border checkpoints in Columbus, N.M.; Nogales, Ariz.; and El Paso, Texas. Today, she is in Mexico City along with President Barack Obama to meet with Mexican President Felipe Calderon and other officials about border security and other issues.