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Clinton Takes Credit for Crime Drop at Border

Politics: The president points out his efforts to respond to illegal immigration. His visit to the West is expected to raise $2.5 million for the Democratic Party.

June 11, 1996|JOHN M. BRODER and TONY PERRY | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

SAN DIEGO — President Clinton on Monday claimed credit for reduced crime along the U.S.-Mexico boundary from California to Texas, telling an audience here that crime has dropped in several major cities on or near the border because of increased law enforcement and prosecution personnel.

According to new Justice Department statistics, crime dropped 16% in San Diego last year and by similar amounts in Nogales, Ariz., and El Paso and Brownsville, Texas--all cities where officials have blamed crime on the high rate of illegal immigration.

"As we have worked hard to bring the crime rate down all over America, we've made special efforts in our border communities, because we know we have special responsibilities there," Clinton said at San Diego police headquarters, citing an increase in border patrol agents in California, Arizona and Texas.

Clinton, on the second day of a three-day California swing, was staying Monday night in Santa Monica. He attended two celebrity-studded fund-raisers in the evening, including one at a Culver City photo studio. Combined with two fund-raisers Clinton attended Sunday, the total take for the Democratic Party from his trip to the West was expected to exceed $2.5 million.

Clinton is scheduled to give a speech this morning at Glendale Community College before departing for New Mexico.

At his San Diego appearance, Clinton touted his efforts to help respond to the consequences of illegal immigration. "I have done what I could to get more money into California in very difficult fiscal circumstances in Washington to help you deal with the costs of illegal immigration," he said.

"While the job is far from over . . . the report I got from the Justice Department makes clear that we have begun to turn communities under siege into communities where law and order and safety and security are, once again, the order of the day," the president said.

Clinton's theme was consistent with his repeated efforts during the past several weeks to bolster his credentials as a crime-fighter in hopes of neutralizing that issue in the fall campaign against presumed Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole.

Clinton also used the San Diego appearance to remind local voters of federal largess showered on the city during his term in office. (In 1992, Clinton became the first Democratic presidential candidate since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944 to carry San Diego County, historically a Republican stronghold.)

He cited the construction of two Navy ships underway in San Diego shipyards, a sewage treatment plant being built partly with federal funds and a plan to increase spending on sand reclamation efforts, "ensuring that the San Diego beaches will be enjoyed by children and their children for generations to come."

The core of his remarks, though, focused on illegal immigration.

"Our message has been simple: We will work with you to give you the tools you need to patrol your streets, protect your children, secure our common border," Clinton told the cheering crowd at police headquarters.

"Here in San Diego, control has been taken back of Imperial Beach from the criminals and the illegals," he said. "We deployed underground sensors, infrared night scopes, encrypted radios; we built miles of new fences, installed thousands of watts of new lighting."

Clinton also announced that he has asked administration officials to dispatch 20 additional law enforcement officers to the Cleveland National Forest in eastern San Diego County to help fight the latest problem associated with illegal immigration: brush fires.

As federal efforts have pushed illegal immigrants eastward from the San Ysidro port of entry, forestry officials have noted an increase in brush fires, thought to be caused by campfires started by immigrants making the overland trek. The county Board of Supervisors last week declared a state of emergency because of the fires and appealed to Clinton for help.

The forestry officers, Clinton said to applause, "will be there by the close of business today."

Even after Clinton finished his rally, there was one more indication of the favors that a president can bestow. Rep. Bob Filner (D-Chula Vista) told a rally outside City Hall that Clinton had agreed to block the transfer of super-loud Marine helicopters to Miramar Naval Air Station from bases in Orange County until further studies can be made on the cost of moving them elsewhere.

Filner made the announcement as homeowner activists, worried about noise from the big choppers, were holding a rally to protest the impending move. The group applauded heartily at Filner's surprise announcement.

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