In a move that should lead to better management of the nation's 2,000-mile-long border with Mexico, Atty. Gen. Janet Reno recently appointed Alan Bersin, the U.S. attorney in San Diego, to the newly created position of "border czar." Bersin joins an experienced team of officials that includes U.S. Immigration Commissioner Doris Meissner, who has helped repair a national immigration policy that was seen as consistently inconsistent.
Under the Clinton Administration, the budget of the Immigration and Naturalization Service has almost doubled, enabling it to purchase more and better equipment, hire more officers and generally function better.
Bersin's record indicates he is a good choice for the border czar post. A lawyer, he studied at Yale and Oxford with President Clinton and at Harvard with Vice President Al Gore, established a practice in Los Angeles and taught law in San Diego. There he was named U.S. attorney late in 1993 and quickly won praise as the unofficial point man at the busiest spot along the border.
Bersin has been credited with planning and executing successful programs that have slowed illegal immigration and cracked down on the smuggling of drugs and human beings. He has also made progress toward a productive dialogue with Mexican officials on border issues.
The new post will be very useful even if it does nothing more than help better coordinate the tasks of the INS, the Customs Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI and several lesser-known agencies that have border responsibilities in four U.S. states.
Of course, U.S.-Mexican border issues--illegal immigration prominent among them--are complex and generations old, so no miracles should be expected from Bersin. Expectations must also be tempered by the knowledge that some past federal "czars" have been less than successful in trying to solve longstanding problems, such as drug abuse. Still, this appointment is encouraging. Bersin at least looks to be the right person for the job. He will have plenty of work to keep him busy.