Busted Budgets On The Border


Myers, MSNBC.com, Jul. 13

Among many federal agents along the

U.S. border with Canada, Washington’s warnings about the need

for vigilance against another terror attack ring hollow.

Border agents tell NBC News that since

April, they’ve been forced to release most illegal immigrants

back onto American streets within hours of catching them—even

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, “It’s simply mind-numbing to the agents. We catch

people who could possibly be terrorists and we’re being told,

‘Gee, we’re 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

aren’t 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 that’s 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 don’t have criminal records could well be



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