Posted on March 10, 2006

Senate Panel Approves Plan to Hire 10,000 More Border Officers

Mason Stockstill, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (Ontario, Cal.), March 10, 2006

A Senate committee signed off on a plan for hiring thousands of new Border Patrol officers while eliminating a plan to build 700 miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico divide.

The Judiciary Committee agreed on a plan to add roughly 10,000 agents to the ranks of Customs and Border Protection over the next five years. It also adopted an amendment from Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., to replace old fences only in high-population areas along the Arizona border, and required the detention of non-Mexican immigrants caught illegally crossing the border, ending the so-called “catch and release” policy.

Kyl’s proposal includes funding for the increased use of technology such as video cameras and infrared sensors to stop border-crossers, rather than extending the 15-foot-high fencing already in place in San Diego and elsewhere.

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Senators had clashed over whether the 700 miles of fencing would be an effective deterrent to would-be illegal immigrants. Texas Republican John Cornyn said such a barrier would cost billions of dollars and send a “dramatically negative message” about the nation’s attitude toward its neighbors.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said he supported the idea of a fence along the border. The technology components are just a “detection device,” and not a true barrier, he said.

The vehicle barriers in the amendment adopted Thursday would be concrete and steel posts spaced several feet apart. The barriers — many of which are already in place along the border — stop cars from crossing but cause less disruption to wildlife than a fence would.

The committee also adopted an amendment requiring the detention of non-Mexican illegal immigrants caught crossing the border. Under the “catch and release” policy, those border-crossers were released with an order requiring them to appear at an immigration hearing, because detention facilities are typically too full to hold them all. Supporters said it would close a loophole that allows illegal immigrants to ignore those court appearances and slip into the country undetected.

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