The U.S. Border Patrol increased at a faster rate and apprehended more illegal aliens per year under President Clinton than under President Bush, according to statistics from a new, unpublished congressional research briefing report.
Mr. Bush trails his predecessor on a series of measures of border security, says the briefing from the Congressional Research Service to the House Judiciary Committee, which was based on Department of Homeland Security data.
Mr. Clinton increased the number of Border Patrol agents and pilots by 126 percent over his eight-year term, or an average of 642 per year, while Mr. Bush has averaged 411 new agents per year through 2005, for a total increase of 22.3 percent over his tenure.
Although Mr. Bush last week said his administration has caught and returned 6 million illegal aliens, that’s actually a drop from any five-year period during Mr. Clinton’s administration, the briefing says.
Meanwhile, the number of alien absconders has grown by more than 200,000 during Mr. Bush’s term, reaching 536,644 in fiscal 2005; the number of completed fraud cases has dropped; and, until recently, detention beds hovered at or below the level Mr. Bush inherited from Mr. Clinton in 2001.
“The sense of urgency that comes with deploying the National Guard is belied by the administration’s consistent opposition to providing the necessary resources that our border security agencies need to do their jobs,” said Sen. Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee.
T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council, said Border Patrol staffing and spending has increased dramatically, but because of “insane policies” that tie agents’ hands, they are apprehending fewer illegals. In 1987, each agent averaged 357 apprehensions, but that fell to 110 per agent in 2004, he said.
In addition, while the number of aliens being smuggled by criminal organizations has gone up, the number of smugglers being prosecuted is about the same.
But Mr. Bonner said Mr. Bush is no worse than other presidents before him, and he credited Congress with the Border Patrol increases in the 1990s.
“As far back as my career goes, there has never been a president—and I’ve been around 28 years—who was serious about securing our borders and stopping illegal immigration,” he said.