WASHINGTON -- A former San Diego Unified School District superintendent was picked to be the Southwest border czar -- a new position created by the Obama administration to handle illegal immigration and border issues, according to an administration official.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is expected to name Alan Bersin to the position on Wednesday during a visit to the Southwest border, the official said. The official would speak only on condition of anonymity ahead of the announcement.
When Bersin was named superintendent in San Diego, some Hispanic groups decried his prior role in a border enforcement program called Operation Gatekeeper. They said the crackdown caused a steep increase in deaths by forcing immigrants to attempt treacherous mountain and desert crossings into the United States.
The new Homeland Security post will be responsible for issues related to drug-cartel violence along the U.S.-Mexico border and the estimated 1 million people who try to enter the U.S. illegally each year.
Napolitano, who is making her second border trip in two weeks, will be discussing the agency's efforts to curb the flow of illegal immigrants, guns and drugs along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The Obama administration has promised to crack down on border violence and work with Mexican authorities against drug cartels. Hundreds of federal agents, along with high-tech surveillance gear and drug-sniffing dogs are being deployed to the Southwest.
In his new capacity, Bersin will work with international officials and their counterparts in the U.S. and border states.
Bersin held a similar position at the Justice Department during the Clinton administration when he was responsible for coordinating law enforcement on the U.S.-Mexico border. During his time as "border czar," he oversaw anti-drug and human trafficking problems.
The Justice Department would not respond to an inquiry about when and why its border czar position was eliminated. The Immigration and Naturalization Service, once part of the Justice Department, was dismantled and rolled into new agencies in the Homeland Security Department. The 2001 terrorist attacks spurred the creation of the new department, which was launched in 2003.
From 1993 to 1998, Bersin was the federal prosecutor who led the government's crackdown on illegal immigrants at the California-Mexico border. Bersin and Napolitano were both U.S. attorneys during the Clinton administration.