Texas Republican Gov. Gregg Abbot and Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar on Monday sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson demanding to know why the agency is planning to cut back aerial monitoring along the southern border by 50 percent.
“Given the recent surge of migrants from Central America and Cuba along the southern border, we believe DHS should request more surveillance and security resources, not fewer,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter, first reported by the Texas Tribune.
According to the letter, the agency has requested 3,850 hours of aerial detection and monitoring for 2016, a significant drop from recent years.
“Any decrease in aerial observation is not only imprudent, but contradicts the very mission of border security enforcement,” the lawmakers wrote. “In order to ensure we are doing everything possible to effectively secure the border, we request immediate information on the metrics used to determine that a 50 percent reduction in aerial resources would be sufficient to support this important border security operation.”
In a Sept. 30, 2015 letter, Mr. Abbot requested additional observation resources at the border, but that request was never acknowledged by DHS.
In a statement to The Washington Times a DHS spokesman said the department will be responding directly to the lawmaker’s new letter.
“DHS is committed to securing our borders and investing resources in the most effective and efficient way possible,” the spokesman said, adding that the department has provided significant resources and seen improvements in border security.
“For Calendar Year 2016, DHS determined that the existing level of support from DoD that had been renewed year-to-year was no longer necessary,” the spokesman said.
The newest letter comes as U.S. Customs and Border Protection recently reported another surge in the number of undocumented immigrants crossing the southern border. From October to December of 2015 roughly 10,566 unaccompanied minors entered Texas illegally through the Rio Grande Valley, a 115 percent increase compared to the same time frame in 2014.
Since 2005, the state of Texas as spent nearly $1.7 billion to secure the border.
“It is our expectation that the federal government similarly fulfill its obligation when it comes to securing the border,” the lawmakers wrote.