Monday, May 15, 2006

Playing politics with border security

President Bush’s plan to militarize our southern borders is a disgusting display of election-year pandering by the Worst President Ever.

President Bush will announce plans to deploy "up to 6,000" National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border to support border patrol officers...

Nevermind that our National Guard troops have been stretched far beyond their limit by the neverending Quagmire in Iraq. Let’s just look at whether or not this is a good use of U.S. resources.

First, how much will it cost to mobilize 6,000 troops on the border? Where will they sleep? Where will they eat? How long will they have to be there?

Second, is this really a national security crisis that merits taking these part-time soldiers away from their families and their jobs for an unspecified period?

Third, why can’t our Border Patrol do the job their paid to do? Why not just hire some more border patrol agents and leave it at that?

Oooh! That’s a good question! Let’s look at that question for a minute. Here is the FY 2006 Budget for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency.
They got a 4.5 percent increase which they tout as one of the biggest of any government agency. Surely, you can’t criticize the Bush administration for that.

But wait! Maybe you can... spite of what many feel is a generous budget increase, some security experts are disappointed over the continued lack of manpower at US borders and the lack of resolve to add the expected 10,000 new Border Patrol agents within the next five years....
The budget provides $36.9 million for 210 additional Border Patrol Agents, directly supporting the strategic goal to increase and extend control of the borders between the ports of entry. But critics complain that originally 2,000 border agents were supposed to be hired annually for five years and the 210 agents will not have much positive impact on border security.

So, the CBP requested funds for 2,000 more border patrol officers for 2006 and they got 1/10th of that, or enough for 210.
That doesn’t sound like the Bush administration thought this was all that serious of a crisis just a few months ago if they only funded 1/10th of the number of border patrol positions that had been requested.
But now, all of a sudden, Bush wants to mobilize the National Guard and send 6,000 troops down to the border? What has changed between then and now other than Bush’s plummeting approval rating?

Republican Sen. Judd Gregg, chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee on homeland security, wasn’t too happy with the Bush administration’s proposed budget, although it didn’t get much play at the time.

The Bush administration sent a "hollow" budget to Capitol Hill that does not fulfill its funding commitment to add 1,500 law-enforcement officers to guard the borders against illegal aliens, key Senate appropriators said yesterday.
    "This is a situation of showing a proposal and then hiding the funds, and so we end up with a budget that we've got a $1.6 billion hole in," said Sen. Judd Gregg, New Hampshire Republican and chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee on homeland security.
    Facing off against Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff during a budget hearing yesterday, Mr. Gregg said the funding priorities of the Bush administration treat border protection like "a stepchild of national defense."
    "I can't think of anything more significant to national defense than protecting our border and making sure that our homeland is secure, and yet the Department of Homeland Security is being starved for funds in crucial areas," Mr. Gregg said.
    "It's a hollow budget and I can't understand it because I've watched the press conferences where the administration has said it's committed to border security and domestic defense, and yet this budget isn't going to get there," Mr. Gregg said.

   This is inexcusable. If President Bush thinks we need 6,000 more bodies guarding our border then we need to provide the requisite funding to get qualified and trained people down there in the agency we already have tasked with doing that job. And they are doing it to the best of their understaffed ability.
In 2005 they apprehended 411,221 individuals attempting to cross the border illegally, up from 336,316 apprehended in 2004.
So they are doing their job, unfortunately the only support they get from this administration is lip service. At least until it serves the president’s political purposes to try and boost his anemic job approval ratings.

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