The Obama administration on Monday warned the nation to expect an increase in illegal immigration if the automatic budget cuts go into effect Friday—the latest caution from a White House determined to raise the heat on congressional Republicans.
President Obama has framed the choice as one between higher taxes or lower security, bolstered by Homeland Security Secretary Janet A. Napolitano’s warning Monday that the U.S. Border Patrol will be forced to furlough agents, costing nearly a quarter of the workforce.
“I don’t think we can maintain the same level of security,” Ms. Napolitano said. “If you have 5,000 fewer Border Patrol agents, you have 5,000 fewer Border Patrol agents.”
But Republicans said the White House is setting up “a false choice” between tax increases and security. They said the other alternative is to make $85 billion in spending cuts in other parts of the budget, rather than the across-the-board cuts that make up the sequester.
Ms. Napolitano said the cuts to her department will endanger the country by hurting border security and cybersecurity efforts.
“There’s always a threat,” she told reporters. “We’re going to do everything we can to minimize that risk. But the sequester makes it awfully, awfully tough.”
In addition to fewer agents on the border, she said she likely would have to cut the number of detention beds to hold illegal immigrants.
But Mr. Coburn, in a letter to Ms. Napolitano sent Monday, argued that she has flexibility to decide which cuts go into effect and said her department is poised to carry over $9 billion in unspent money at the end of this year—“raising the question of why we would not start by reclaiming these funds.”