Union Tribune

April 12, 2002

House panel wants need for freeway checkpoints studied


WASHINGTON A House panel has approved legislation that
would order the attorney general to study the possibility of
closing the immigration checkpoints on interstates 15 and 5 in
San Diego County.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, sponsor of the measure, said the
checkpoints should be closed and their hundreds of
law-enforcement personnel transferred.

Issa said he questions whether the enforcement presence is
worth the traffic headaches on I-5 at San Onofre and I-15 near
Temecula on the San Diego County line.

Critics of the checkpoints also question their effectiveness,
although previous efforts to close them have failed.

Immigration and Naturalization Service officials have not
commented on Issa's proposal in a bill approved by the House
Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

But a Border Patrol spokesman described the checkpoints as
"very valuable."

"We use the highway checkpoints as a secondary line of defense
(after the border)," said Agent James Jacques, who is based in
San Diego. "We find quite a large percentage of drugs that are
seized at these checkpoints; we find motorists driving under the
influence of alcohol; and we catch a lot of criminals either in
stolen or unsafe vehicles."

About 200,000 cars a day pass through the I-5 INS checkpoint
at Camp Pendleton near Orange County. Officials arrest an
average of 14 illegal immigrants a day, according to Issa.

Considering the effect on commuters and the safety risk, "the
cost to apprehend 14 immigrants . . . does not merit continued
operations," Issa said.

Issa's proposal was a little-noticed amendment to a bill that calls for dismantling the INS.

The legislation proposes splitting the agency into bureaus of
enforcement and service.

The House is expected to vote on the measure in two weeks.