Keith Roberts

In 2001, I was an assistant chief patrol agent in the Miami Sector Border Patrol, responsible for detecting, deterring and intercepting narcotics and people attempting to enter the U.S. illegally.

Sept. 11 changed my job profoundly. The Department of Homeland Security was created, and the Border Patrol was incorporated into Customs and Border Protection with the mission of keeping terrorists from entering the U.S.

For the first time, I felt that the law enforcement community understood that foreign-born threats existed and that noncitizens in the U.S. did not have adequate monitoring. A level of cooperation occurred that had not existed previously.

For example, there was an urgent need to get a driver’s license photograph from a Department of Motor Vehicles in the Midwest. Normally, it would have required a lengthy exchange. Instead, the photo was obtained over the telephone within hours and an ancillary target thought to be involved in the 9/11 conspiracy was arrested.

I was later detailed to Washington, where I helped plan the mission of the Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force. I was able to provide a perspective on foreign-born criminals, subversives and terrorist populations in the U.S. and abroad to law enforcement, whose thinking was routinely U.S.-centric.

Returning to my position in the Miami Sector, I welcomed the additional material and financial support from DHS, and adjusted to the new oversight and authority.

But I am opposed to the reassignment of dedicated investigative personnel — anti-smuggling special agents — to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations division. This change reduces the ability to effectively combat alien smuggling through proactive means … and impedes prosecutions by foreign law officials.

Roberts retired after nearly 30 years of federal service and now is a consultant on homeland security projects at VisionBridge Consultants Inc. in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.