The Bush administration’s decision not to hire 2,000 new Border Patrol agents for fiscal year 2006 will seriously hamper efforts to control illegal immigration along the U.S.-Mexico border, said current and retired officials.
President Bush is expected to seek an increase of only about 200 agents for the new fiscal year, according to law-enforcement authorities and others, significantly short of the 2,000 per year authorized for each of the next five years in the recently passed intelligence overhaul bill.
Passed by Congress and signed into law by Mr. Bush in December, the bill authorized 10,000 new Border Patrol agents as part of Congress’ response to the September 11 commission’s findings. The panel revealed deep institutional failings and missed opportunities by U.S. authorities in stopping the al Qaeda terrorists who crashed jetliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, killing about 3,000 people.
The proposed influx of new agents would nearly double the size of the Border Patrol in the next five years as concern increased over new terrorist threats and a significant rise in the number of assaults against agents assigned along the border. Fears were heightened particularly in Arizona, where agents captured more than 40 percent of the 1.15 million aliens caught last year trying to sneak into the country.
Agents on a 260-mile stretch of Arizona-Mexico border, known as the Tucson sector, are being assaulted at a rate of once every two days, according to Border Patrol statistics.
Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, told reporters last week that he was “disappointed in Secretary Ridge’s comments” because they seemed to go against what Mr. Bush had promised in the letter.
In a letter to Mr. Bush, he asked the president to fully fund the increases authorized in the bill, particularly the number of Border Patrol agents—a staffing provision that was among the recommendations of the September 11 commission.
“Now that you have signed into law the conference report implementing the recommendations of the 9/11 commission, we as the conferees to the House-Senate conference committee are asking you to join us in seeking full funding for the resources it authorizes,” the letter said.
It was signed by all five House Republican leaders on the intelligence bill: Mr. Sensenbrenner and Reps. Henry J. Hyde of Illinois, chairman of the House International Relations Committee; Duncan Hunter of California, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee; Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, chairman of the House intelligence committee; and David Dreier of California, chairman of the House Rules Committee.