- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 30, 2005

President Bush should dispatch Vice President Dick Cheney for some immediate high-level attention to the border-control problem. We don’t normally presume to tell the president how to deploy his top advisers, much less his vice president, but the conclusion seems inescapable after this week’s chaos on the border.

The Department of Homeland Security released hasty-sounding plans this week to dispatch 150 Border Patrol agents to Arizona in the next few days. The move is a short-term, ad-hoc fix that coincides with Project Minuteman’s deployment this weekend and follows the president’s abnegation of border-control promises. The move is welcome, but it is not nearly enough. “Right now, things are so out of control we have no idea who’s crossing our borders,” T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council union, told the Associated Press. “It’s going to take more than a couple of hundred agents to seal those gaps.”

There is some consolation that the move to bolster the number of agents on patrol is unintended acknowledgement of the severity of the problem. However, that hardly alleviates the problem created by Mr. Bush’s failure to fund 2,000 new agents — as promised in the December intelligence-overhaul bill.

This isn’t the fault of DHS or the Border Patrol; it’s a lack of policy guidance. The United States needs concise direction from the White House. It cannot rely on the bureaucracies to resolve matters; bureaucracies are, by their very nature, incapable of making the kind of policy departure necessary to improve border-control. Sending a high-level official to diagnose the country’s border-enforcement ailments and return to Washington with a set of recommendations is the only way to handle the matter at this point. There is a demonstrable need for such action and ample precedent to do so.

The last few weeks have seen considerable public debate over the Arizona border, and debates serve their own purpose. Now, the prime season for illegals heading north begins. The president needs to take action to stop the illegal activity from worsening. We cannot rely on ad hoc, last-minute solutions to the border-control problem. We need real leadership from the White House.

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