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U.S. Border Patrol Celebrates Opening of $1.7-Million Imperial Beach Station

Times Staff Writer

The U. S. Border Patrol, in the midst of a rapid nationwide buildup of personnel and facilities, dedicated a new, state-of-the-art station Friday in Imperial Beach.

The inauguration ceremony, attended by a host of federal dignitaries including Immigration and Naturalization Service Commissioner Alan C. Nelson underscored the Reagan Administration’s determination in its waning months to convey an image of accomplishment in the often-contentious area of immigration.

The Administration has set in motion the patrol’s largest-ever buildup, and has presided over a sweeping series of immigration reforms.

Immigration policy under the next president remains an open question, but the Reagan Administration has left its mark and signaled a strong commitment to border enforcement--a direction that many immigration experts feel is unlikely to be reversed, no matter who is elected in November.

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Symbol of Accomplishment

“This building is more than bricks and mortar,” Commissioner Nelson said of the new facility in Imperial Beach. “It’s also a symbol of what the immigration service and the Border Patrol have accomplished.”

The patrol, a uniformed enforcement arm of the INS, is expanding from 3,200 officers to 4,300 nationwide. The San Diego area, home to 640 officers, is slated to receive more than 200 more officers as part of the buildup.

The latest expansion was mandated as part of the immigration reforms enacted by Congress in 1986. The Border Patrol was assigned a key role.

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“I don’t think we could be as effective in the implementation of the new law without this facility,” said Dale W. Cozart, chief patrol agent in San Diego of the new station. “It will certainly help us do a better job of controlling the problem of illegal immigration.”

Most Popular Crossing Point

The San Diego area, gateway to the booming job market of Los Angeles and Southern California, is considered the most popular border crossing for foreigners seeking to enter the United States illegally. Hundreds of would-be immigrants are arrested here each day and returned to Mexico.

The new, 14,000-square-foot facility, built for $1.7 million, will house 170 patrol agents and support personnel who formerly worked out of two mobile units situated on the west side of the port of entry at San Ysidro. The new station has long been a priority because of the cramped and inefficient quarters near the port. The 12.7-acre site was donated by the Navy, which has an adjoining training base.

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‘Most Modern Station’

“This is the most modern Border Patrol station in the nation,” said Harold Ezell, Western regional commissioner for the INS.

The cinder-block structure includes administrative offices, a holding area, individual cells and a place for processing large numbers of illegal aliens. The circular design of the detention and processing section is intended to give agents better vision of people in custody.

Agents assigned to the Imperial Beach facility cover a 5.5-mile stretch of international boundary that is among the most heavily traveled along the entire 1,952-mile U.S.-Mexican border. During 1987, agents from the station recorded arrests of almost 120,000 illegal aliens, or an average of more than 320 a day.

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The station is one of nine such Border Patrol facilities, of varying size, in the San Diego area, Cozart said. The patrol is also planning to build a $2-million facility at Brown Field on Otay Mesa.


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