Local Representatives Want Federal Scrutiny of Panga Smuggling Increase
• Want Homeland Security Agency to Do More to Secure Coast
BY BILL KOENEKER
A contingent of U.S. Congressmembers from Southern California including Malibu’s Henry Waxman, expressing concern about increased panga boat smuggling on the California coast, have indicated they want better communication and briefings with Department of Homeland Security officials “to explore the federal role in our coast security.”
Specifically, the lawmakers, Congressmembers Lois Capps, Janice Hahn, Waxman and other colleagues in the California Congressional Delegation wrote to the DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano to express their concerns.
The tragic death of Chief Petty Officer Terre Horne III, in a confrontation with panga operators, has put the national spotlight on the issue, which has faced a notable increase in the incidents of panga smuggling over the past two years, the Congressional delegation noted.
“There have been a troubling rise in drug and human trafficking off the California coast. I’m working with Rep. Lois Capps, Rep. Janice Hahn to ensure that our Coast Guard and customs officials have the resources to fight this dangerous activity,” Waxman, said in a prepared statement.
Most of the Congressmembers made it clear that the death of Horne “has reminded us of the increasing danger of panga smuggling and the threat they continue to pose in Southern and Central California.”
Hahn said, “We need to redouble our efforts to counter this threat and ensure that we are effectively coordinating federal, state and local agencies to keep our shore and our people safe.”
In July, Capps hosted a meeting between federal and local law enforcement to discuss the increased incidents, how best to focus limited resources and how to better coordinate law enforcement efforts between various agencies.
The letter indicates the lawmakers want an update on “what the federal government has done to date to prevent these boats from landing on American shores.”
The letter states that according to data kept by the U.S. Border Patrol, in fiscal year, 2011, 57 panga events off Southern California were reported. To date in fiscal year 2012 already 64 events have been reported.
They have been found up the state’s coast as far as San Francisco and due to the increase in enforcement on the Southern California region an increasing number have also been landing on the Central Coast.
“We are interested in gaining a complete picture of the resources and tools at your disposal to address the threats these vessels pose and to learn how the federal government works with local and state officials to protect our shores. We stand ready to work with you to ensure that we are doing all we can to keep our citizens and our coastline safe,” the letter concludes.