Myers, MSNBC.com, Jul. 13
Among many federal agents along the
U.S. border with Canada, Washingtons warnings about the need
for vigilance against another terror attack ring hollow.
Border agents tell NBC News that since
April, theyve been forced to release most illegal immigrants
back onto American streets within hours of catching themeven
some who are criminals or from countries known to produce terrorists.
Shortly after 9/11, we were
locking up everybody. There was no exception, says recently
retired U.S. Border Agent Peter Kush. We seem to be going
back to the same old, same old song and dance.
One Vermont sheriff says border patrol
detainees in his jail have dropped 75 percent since April. I
was told kind of unofficially by telephone that the monies had run
out, says Franklin County Sheriff Robert Norris.
Indeed, documents obtained by NBC
News show that over the last month, illegal immigrants were repeatedly
released due to lack of detention funds.
Along the New York and Vermont borders
alone, at least 11 released were from so-called countries of special
interest, including Pakistan and Morocco. T.J. Bonner of the Border
Patrol Agents Association, who represents border patrol agents nationwide,
says, Its simply mind-numbing to the agents. We catch
people who could possibly be terrorists and were being told,
Gee, were out of money, we have to let them go.
Other documents obtained by NBC News
York, Pa.: Due to worsening
budget problems, this Pennsylvania detention facility no
longer takes all criminal . . . aliens, generally only violent
Miami: A memo re-titled Let
em All Go by an unhappy agent, says due to budgetary
constraints, only criminals who completed sentences after
October 1998 must be detained.
A land Security official says
the agency is asking Congress for more money, but insists agents
arent releasing anyone who might be dangerous, whether a criminal
or possible terrorist.
We are not compromising national
security, says Victor Cerda of the Department of land
Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Agents look
at each case individually and they will make determinations, again,
based on the intelligence thats out there. Is this person
a threat to our country?
But agents say they only have a few
hours for basic checks of terror watch lists and criminal records.
They warn that without detentions and longer investigations, terrorists
who use aliases or dont have criminal records could well be