A report from Washington correspondent Conrad Wilson:
WASHINGTON – Rep. Tim Walz traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border on Saturday to learn more about illegal immigration, an issue that has emerged as possibly central in the First District congressional race.
Walz visited with U.S. Border Patrol Agents and K-9 units, examined security technology and detention facilities, and saw areas of the border Ã¢â‚¬Å“where security needs differ.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Walz is facing a competitive re-election bid this November from state senator Dick Day, R-Owatonna, and three other Republicans — Rep. Randy Demmer, R-Hayfield; Rochester physician Brian Davis; and business consultant Mark Meyer. All have made illegal immigration a key theme, and Day traveled to the border at the end of November.
“Securing our borders is the first step in addressing problems with illegal immigration in this country,” said Walz in a statement. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I organized this trip because I wanted to learn first-hand from the men and women on the ground about what’s working and what additional resources these agents need to do their jobs.”
In a statement Walz outlined several areas for improvement: Increased efforts to recruit and hire new Border Patrol Agents; funding for more security cameras; better evaluation of the use of K-9 units, which actually seize more drug money each year than it costs to run their program.
Illegal immigration gained visibility last spring in governmental raids on food processing plants in the First District cities Austin, Owatonna and Worthington.
“In 2007, the Congress funded 3,000 new Border Patrol agents and I am more convinced than ever that more agents and additional technologies are some of the best methods to secure and monitor the border,” Walz said.