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Border chief says new strategy focuses on risks

In this April 19, 2011, file photo, a member of the National Guard checks on his colleague inside a Border Patrol Skybox near the Hidalgo International Bridge in Hidalgo, Texas. (AP Photo/Delcia Lopez, File)

U.S. Border Patrol Chief Mike Fisher unveiled parts of his agency’s new strategic four-year plan to tackle border security on Wednesday, saying that agents will focus on better responding to risks.

Fisher addressed a crowd of law enforcement and those working in the border-security field at a major border expo in downtown Phoenix.

Details of the Border Patrol’s new strategic plan were still being finalized and that the plan won’t be made public for about another two months, he said.

But Fisher outlined the basics, saying that the agency’s last strategy, written in 2004, will move from being resource-based to risk-based.

“In 2004, quite frankly, our strategy was nothing less than brute force,” he said. “We said, ‘Get everything we can and get it at the line.’”

Since then, the agency has beefed up manpower, technology and infrastructure, and apprehensions of border-crossers have gone down, causing the Border Patrol to reassess its strategy and move toward integrating all its capabilities to be more effective.

That includes identifying and stopping so-called special-interest aliens, or people crossing the U.S.-Mexico border from countries viewed as hostile toward the U.S.

“There are people that wake up every day in this world and think of nothing other than how to harm this country,” Fisher told The Associated Press. “It’s not necessarily at this point, ‘Give us more stuff.’ It’s about applying the stuff we have to reduce risk.”

Also Wednesday, a ceremony was held for the first time for the families of agents and officers who have been killed in the line of duty.

They included the families of agents Hector Clark and Eduardo Rojas, who were nearing the end of an overnight search for drug smugglers on May 12 when a 4,600-ton train smashed into their vehicle in a rural farming area near the town of Gila Bend, about 85 miles southwest of Phoenix.

Both men were killed and each left behind a wife and two children.

Clark’s wife, Nereida Clark, of Yuma, said after the ceremony that she was grateful that her husband’s memory will live on.

“I know they share our pain,” she said. “Their love and support and encouragement and strength has really helped our family — not get through it because I don’t think we’ll ever get through it — but stand up proud.”

Also honored at the ceremony was agent Brian Terry, who was killed in a shootout with border bandits in December 2010. A gun used in his shooting was connected to the botched federal operation known as Fast and Furious, in which agents lost track of nearly 1,400 of the more than 2,000 guns purchased by suspected straw buyers.

Terry’s family did not attend the ceremony. They have filed a $25 million wrongful-death claim against the federal government, saying that Terry was killed because the government allowed murder weapons into the hands of criminals.

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