- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 11, 2004

The Bush administration is “rolling out the welcome mat for terrorists and illegal aliens” in seeking to legalize millions of foreign nationals illegally in the United States and in proposing budget cuts “thinning the ranks” of America’s border force, says the head of the Border Patrol’s 10,000-member union.

“Budget and personnel cuts, coupled with the proposed amnesty for illegal aliens, make it clear that this administration is not at all serious about securing our homeland or enforcing our immigration laws,” T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council (NBPC), told a House subcommittee.

“Foreign terrorists continue to pose an extreme threat to the safety of our nation, and illegal immigration remains out of control,” said Mr. Bonner, a Border Patrol agent for 26 years. “How can anyone contemplate cutting the funding and staffing of our first line of defense?”

At a budget hearing of the House Judiciary subcommittee on immigration, border security and claims, Mr. Bonner said that despite a $3.6 billion increase proposed for Homeland Security for fiscal 2005, the Border Patrol — whose responsibilities include 6,000 miles of international border — is slated for cuts totaling more than $18.3 million.

He described as “unwise” a Bush plan to substitute $64 million for sensors and surveillance technology and $10 million for unmanned aerial vehicles instead of increasing the number of agents “by at least 1,000.”

“While such technology can be useful in pinpointing the location of those who cross our borders illegally, it cannot catch a single violator,” Mr. Bonner said, pointing out that the Border Patrol is the only agency within Homeland Security that has been targeted for staff cuts.

“Until control of the borders is achieved, it is irresponsible to propose cutting the Border Patrol’s budget and staffing. As long as our borders remain porous, they are just as open to terrorists and other criminals as they are to illegal aliens,” he said.

Chairman John N. Hostettler, Indiana Republican, said that while President Bush has proposed additional funding in 2005 for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which oversees the Border Patrol, there are no resources for additional agents — a decision, he said, that ended “a trend of several years.”

Mr. Hostettler said the subcommittee is trying to determine whether the president’s fiscal request adequately responds to what he called the “main immigration challenges facing the United States today” — reducing the illegal alien population, protecting the United States from criminal aliens and terrorists, and ensuring that immigration benefit applications are handled correctly and in a timely manner.

Michael W. Cutler, former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) senior agent, told the subcommittee that reducing the illegal alien population would require significant funding increases, but that failing to do so would “ultimately cost our country far more.”

“The abysmal reputation that our nation has gained over the past several decades in terms of our ability and determination to enforce the immigration laws deters few, if any, aliens who would come here, either in violation of our laws or with the intention of violating our laws after they enter,” he said. “We must do better.”

Mr. Bonner also said laws regarding employer sanctions need to be strengthened, adding that without the draw of jobs, illegal immigration would be reduced dramatically.

Additionally, he said, Mr. Bush’s guest worker proposal would encourage illegal immigration.

“Given the administration’s support of amnesty for millions of illegal aliens, the proposed budget and personnel cuts for the Border Patrol should probably not come as a surprise to anyone. Nevertheless, they are disappointing and demoralizing to the front-line workers who risk their lives on a daily basis enforcing our nation’s immigration laws,” he said.

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