Tucson Citizen
Wednesday, May 5, 2004

New Border Patrol chief: Tucson buildup not done

                                                                                    David Aguilar, head of the Border Patrol's Tucson
                                                                                    sector since 1999, is moving to Washington, D.C.,
                                                                                    to run the agency.


As David Aguilar prepares to take the helm of the U.S. Border Patrol, local supporters hope he will take with him the story of the Arizona border region.
"I don't think he is going to forget that Arizona presents one of the biggest challenges on the Southwest border," said Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik. "This will enhance Arizona's standing in the pecking order."

Aguilar, 48, chief of the Tucson sector since 1999, assumes the national post July 1.

In an interview yesterday, he said the Tucson sector would continue to be a priority for him.

"What I see for Tucson is a continuation of the buildup that we have set in place already," Aguilar said. "Tucson is still a work in progress, we're still moving forward and we're getting the additional resources."

While the chairwoman of the Tohono O'odham Nation lamented the departure of Aguilar, she expressed optimism that he will address the effect of illegal immigration on tribal land, which has 75 miles of border with Mexico.

"We believe that his experience, background and understanding of the Tohono O'odham Nation will be very beneficial in ongoing efforts to address the unique issues on the nation and in this region," said Vivian Juan-Saunders.

After five years heading the busiest sector in the nation, Aguilar quickly identified what he will miss most - the people.

"Especially the agents out here," he said. "They have been challenged, they have been tried, they have stepped up to the plate. Those Border Patrol agents are out there, literally living in the middle of the desert, 24 hours a day, for extended periods of time away from their families. It never ceases to pleasantly amaze me."

For the next two months, he will move out of his current role, which includes main coordinator of the Arizona Border Control Initiative, unveiled by Department of Homeland Security officials earlier this year.

Apprehensions of illegal immigrants have spiked as the program rolls out.

Already, this fiscal year, which began October 1, agents have caught 287,869 illegal immigrants in the Tucson sector, which stretches from the New Mexico border to the Yuma County line.

Aguilar attributes the numbers to law enforcement cooperation.

"The ABC Initiative has worked because of collaboration with local, state and tribal law enforcement," he said. "Not in support of the Border Patrol, but in support of border enforcement. That's where our focus as a law enforcement family should be."

Dupnik echoed the sentiment, and called Aguilar "the epitome of good law enforcement management.

"He is one of the most effective team builders that we've ever had in this valley," Dupnik said.

Aguilar began his career in 1978 as a Border Patrol agent in Laredo, Texas, moving to agent in charge in Dallas, Rio Grande City and Brownsville, Texas, before becoming the Border Patrol's regional director in Dallas in 1996.

In 1999, he graduated from the Harvard Senior Executive Fellows program, an intensive program in leadership and management.

Aguilar will replace retiring Border Patrol Chief Gus De La Viña, who has been the head of the Border Patrol since 1997.

In his new role, Aguilar will oversee 21 sectors and more than 11,000 agents who guard 6,000 miles of international borders and 2,000 miles of coastal waters.