- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 22, 2018

Border Patrol leaders and line agents say publicly that more fencing will help them control the U.S.-Mexico line — but a new Democratic report Thursday says what they’re really asking for behind closed doors is more personnel and technology.

Democrats on the Senate Homeland Security Committee reviewed assessments and resource requests filed by agents and supervisors who were asked what they needed to fill gaps in border security.

Rarely did they ask for a wall or additional fencing, the Democrats concluded, and only one of 14 “urgent and compelling” gaps involved a request for additional border barriers.

“More often, these Urgent and Compelling capability gaps were associated with technological or personnel needs, such as insufficient manpower, poor training, or inadequate surveillance equipment,” the report concluded.

Homeland Security representative Katie Waldman said the Democratic study distorted the data to fit their “clearly false narrative.”

She said the reports Democrats used weren’t intended to solicit strategic solutions, but rather specific gaps in security.

“They have, unfortunately, conflated two distinctly different items,” Ms. Waldman said. “Despite their fundamental misunderstanding of the materials they read — and numerous briefings on the same topic — we need to take immediate action to secure our border by building a border wall system, that includes physical barriers, technology, and personnel.”

And Benjamine “Carry” Huffman, chief of the Border Patrol’s Strategic Planning and Analysis Directorate, said they fully back the need for a wall.

“The U.S. Border Patrol has been very clear that a border wall is essential to gaining operational control of the Southwest Border. The fact is, when it comes to border security, the border wall system works. Suggestions that the Border Patrol believes otherwise are false,” the chief said.

President Trump has made erecting a border wall a high priority for his administration, saying it will combat the renewed surge of illegal immigrants and hinder drug trafficking. Mr. Trump ordered a competition to test new wall designs, and earlier this month traveled to San Diego to see those designs himself.

But his demands have become highly politicized, with Democrats who over the last decade had voted for hundreds of miles of additional fencing now opposing it.

The new spending bill released this week includes $1.3 billion for border fencing and hundreds of millions of dollars more for border planning, delivering a small down payment. But the numbers are not what the White House had sought, with just 33 miles of the border gaining new fencing. Another 14 miles that currently have a barriers will get a second layer of fencing, and 48 miles of existing barriers will be replaced.

Strangely, the bill does not include any money to hire new Border Patrol agents — despite the Democrats’ report saying that’s what agents most often requested to fill security

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