- The Washington Times - Monday, April 28, 2003

The Border Patrol, long ignored as an agency within the Immigration and Naturalization Service, has been given a front-line role in the Department of Homeland Security in protecting the United States not only against illegal aliens and drug smugglers, but also terrorists and weapons of mass destruction.
"We need the Border Patrol now more than ever to do all we can to make sure terrorists and terrorist weapons, including weapons of mass destruction, are not permitted to be smuggled into the United States between our ports of entry," said Robert C. Bonner, commissioner of the department's newly created Bureau of Customs and Border Protection.
"Our priority mission is nothing less than detecting and preventing terrorists and terrorist weapons from entering the United States, and the U.S. Border Patrol is central to that mission," he said in an interview. "As commissioner, I will give the Border Patrol my full support for its important mission."
Mr. Bonner said the United States also needs a "strong and effective" Border Patrol between the nation's 300 ports of entry to apprehend the millions of aliens who seek to enter the United States illegally each year, and to stop drug smugglers from bringing tons of narcotics into the country.
He said that while the agency has done an "extraordinary job, day and night, performing its mission" and while the task "has always been and will continue to be a difficult one," having the resources of the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection will allow the agency to be "even more effective and successful in performing its essential mission of protecting our nation and enforcing the laws of the United States at our borders."
"The Border Patrol is America's main force between the country's ports of entry," Mr. Bonner said. "It has found a good home in the Bureau of Customs and Border Enforcement and will be supported in a way INS never did."
The commissioner said one of his top priorities over the next few weeks will be to bring "efficiency and effectiveness" to a border security network that historically has been fragmented and spread among nearly two dozen agencies.
That effort, he said, will include the transfer of decision-making to headquarters, where responsibilities can be determined and aligned better and where budgetary concerns can be addressed immediately. He said a single agency for border security must know its priorities and objectives, and needs a clear delineation of responsibilities with a common chain of command to increase efficiency.
The Bureau of Customs and Border Protection unifies for the first time all the federal agencies responsible for border enforcement, protection and inspection in a single department and within a new chain of command that eliminates several layers of bureaucracy between inspectors and agents in the field and command staff in Washington.
Mr. Bonner, a former federal judge and prosecutor who headed the U.S. Customs Service and also served as chief of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said the Border Patrol needs the necessary resources and equipment to protect the country and must have the "mobility to respond to terrorist threats as those threats continue to evolve."
"This is an exciting time one of change, but also one of great opportunity to take our combined skills and resources and make them work together more effectively and efficiently than ever as a team," said Mr. Bonner.
His new bureau includes inspectors and enforcement officers from the Customs Service, the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service's quarantine inspection program, along with 10,000 Border Patrol agents.

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