- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 9, 2006

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, concerned about rising border violence, said yesterday nearly $1 billion in next year’s proposed $42.7 billion department budget will be used for new U.S. Border Patrol agents, upgraded electronic security measures, and more fences, roads, and detention beds.

“There has been an over-100 percent increase in the last fiscal year in border violence aimed at our Border Patrol agents, and that ranges from gunshots fired across the border to rocks being thrown, sometimes flaming rocks, and let me tell you, rockings are serious,” Mr. Chertoff said at a press conference in Washington.

“We are not going to tolerate this kind of behavior … if they think they’re going to back us down or chase us away, the answer to that is no. Our Border Patrol is properly trained. They have rules of engagement. They are entitled to defend themselves. They will defend themselves. We will support them in applying these rules of engagement,” he said.

Border Patrol Chief David V. Aguilar noted there had already been 192 assaults on his agents since the start of the new fiscal year in October.

Mr. Chertoff said much of the border violence has been the result of increased enforcement efforts by the U.S. government, but that the department was committed to securing the nation’s borders as part of the strategy that “involves not only apprehensions at the border, but detention, removal and more vigorous work site enforcement.”

The new budget calls for $458.9 million for 1,500 new Border Patrol agents, doubling the number of agents added to 3,000 since 2005. This represents a 42 percent increase in the agent work force since the September 11 attacks.

The budget also calls for:

• $100 million for technology that will enhance electronic surveillance and operational response capability along the border. Mr. Chertoff said the money will provide significant procurement investments needed to begin an aggressive deployment plan that began in fiscal 2005.

• $30 million to complete construction of the San Diego border infrastructure project that includes multiple fences and patrol roads to enable quick enforcement response.

• $410.2 million for an additional 6,700 detention bed spaces — to eliminate an existing “catch and release” program in which apprehended illegal aliens are released because of a lack of bed space.

Mr. Chertoff said rising violence along the U.S.-Mexico border represented not only a threat to law-enforcement personnel but to everyone.

“This is dangerous to our country; it’s dangerous to Mexico; it’s dangerous to the human beings who are being smuggled into the country and then left to die in the desert, or subject to being victims of assaults by the coyotes [alien smugglers] themselves,” he said.

“So, from a humanitarian and a national security standpoint, we have to have a very strong commitment to ending this activity by illegal trafficking organizations,” he said.


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