HEBBRONVILLE, Texas—The Border Patrol is bigger than ever, but South Texas ranch manager Bill Hellen says he still sees more illegal immigrants than ever.
When the Border Patrol put up a new checkpoint along the highway, he said illegal immigrants simply slashed his cattle fences and sneaked through his ranch.
And he doesn’t see that changing any time soon, even with President Bush’s promise of 6,000 new agents along the border.
“All the ranchers surrounding the checkpoint say the same thing,” he said. “It’s just a constant strain of illegal aliens on our pastures.”
Many experts and critics agree with Hellen that building up the Border Patrol hasn’t done much good. Border Patrol has doubled in size between 1995 and 2005 to 11,500 agents.
“What we find pretty consistently is that the number of agents just does not seem to be related to the number of apprehensions that they make,” said Linda Roberge, senior research fellow at the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University who studies immigration. “The flood, it may go up and it may go down, but there’s always more that get through than get caught.”
Press officers for U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Washington, D.C., which encompasses the Border Patrol, didn’t return several phone calls seeking comment.
Those who support Bush’s call say there’s no way fewer than 12,000 agents can control 7,000 miles of northern and southern U.S. border. U.S. Reps. Solomon Ortiz and Silvestre Reyes, both Texas Democrats, have been calling for more agents and more detention space for years.
John Keeley, spokesman for the Center for Immigration Studies, wondered why there was no call to dramatically increase the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel at job sites in the interior United States.
“Border resources can’t be the exclusive focus of Congress or the administration,” he said. “The magnet for illegal immigration in the United States is the widespread availability of jobs.”
ICE’s enforcement force for the entire nation outside the border areas number about 200, he said, and Bush’s 2007 budget calls for 200 more. Keeley said that was laughable considering the New York City police force numbers about 36,000.