Gianforte tours Havre Sector Border Patrol facilities
U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Mont., took advantage of being in Havre Tuesday to visit the U.S. Border Patrol Havre Sector facilities.
"I wanted to get some first-hand knowledge from the Customs and Border Patrol on the challenges they face to keep our northern border secure," Gianforte said after he toured the facilities.
Gianforte, who faces a re-election challenge from Democrat Kathleen Williams and Libertarian Elinor Swanson, held a campaign event in Havre Monday.
He said he met with several agents while touring facilities Tuesday, including Division Chief John C. South, Deputy Chief Patrol Agent Anthony Scott Good, Division Chief Julie L. Hassa and Division Chief Michael P. Stewart.
Gianforte said he has toured a number of facilities and ports of entry in Montana along the Canadian border, including the Plentywood and Scobey Border Patrol stations. He said it was interesting to see the headquarters in Havre for the whole sector that guards the Montana-Canada border.
He added that like on the southern border, agents are concerned about border security.
"First I want to say thank-you to the Customs and Border Patrol for them working to secure the border," Gianforte said. "I am always impressed with their professionalism."
Gianforte said the agents said they encounter at least one illegal crossing at the border per week, though most of these are hunters wandering across the border, but there are other issues as well. He added that agents informed him the state has a serious problem with illegal narcotics being transported across the border.
Gianforte said an agent he met with had recently transferred to Montana from the border with Mexico. The agent told him, he said, Montana has fewer than 200 agents protecting the northern border while the southern border has more than 18,000 agents. Gianforte said the challenges they face are different, but with agents stretched thin across 476 miles, they would like to have additional surveillance capabilities, due to a concern about small aircraft.
"We have to be vigilant," Gianforte said, "I was impressed with the work that they do."
One of the big issues raised, Gianforte said, was the need to be effective in stopping narcotics coming across the border. He added that for the northern border illegal immigration is not as high of a concern as drug trafficking.
While touring the facility, Gianforte said, he was also given the opportunity to observe and participate in the training simulator, which simulates a variety of law enforcement scenarios. He said this simulator is one out of a handful in the country and is the only one, to his knowledge, in the state.
Border Patrol has been using the simulator for its own training purposes, as well as for training officers from other agencies, Gianforte said, such as the Hill County Sheriff's Office and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
Officers and agents can be trained for a variety of situations they might face in the field, he said, such as an active shooter in a school or a movie theater or just a confrontation with a potential criminal.
He added that the simulator is a great tool to assure law enforcement is ready to face whatever challenges they might encounter while in the line of duty.
Gianforte said that during his session in the simulator he faced a perpetrator attacking him with a knife.
"I learned when a man who was running at me with a knife I didn't shoot fast enough," he said, "I was prepared the second time."
"I am thankful that we have tools like (the simulator) so that our law enforcement is prepared," Gianforte added. " ... They put their lives on the line every day and anything we can do to prepare them or make sure they have the resources they need. 'Cause they are the thin blue line that keeps our communities safe both at the border and within our communities."
Gianforte said he saw how critically important it is that the country has secure borders, whether it is the northern or southern border.
The issue at the border for Montana has more to do with methamphetamine, he added, with meth from Mexico finding its way across that border into Montana.
Gianforte said a Montana sheriff told him he knows when the "Mexican meth" shows up in the community because he sees a spike in the crime rate. Burglaries, domestic violence and vandalism, 95 percent-plus is traced back to some form of addiction, Gianforte said the sheriff told him.
The country needs to secure the border to end illegal immigration, Gianforte said, but probably more important for Montana is to end the flow of illegal drugs coming into the communities. These drugs, he added, are tearing families apart and are the root of most of the crime that is seen in the state.
"This is all about making our communities safer," he said. "And I'm thankful that we have such talented individuals there in Havre supervising the security of our entire northern border."