Former Border Patrol agents call Senate’s immigration plan ‘a huge waste of resources’

Jul 11, 2013 Issues: Counterterrorism

Deploying 20,000 more U.S. Border Patrol agents along the southwestern border as proposed in an immigration reform bill passed by the Senate would be "a huge waste of resources," according to former border agents, who say that money should be used to track down dangerous criminal aliens nationwide.

Criminal aliens pose a "clear and present danger" to the American people and anything resembling amnesty or a path to citizenship at this point in time "will ensure further endangerment of the American family unit," according to the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers (NAFBPO), a group that includes several former Border Patrol sector chiefs and former U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service regional directors.

"We believe there are a sufficient number of Border Patrol agents on the border," said NAFBPO Chairman Zack Taylor, a retired Border Patrol agent and supervisor who spent 26 years patrolling the Mexican border in Texas and Arizona. "Real border security must begin with effective interior enforcement in every jurisdiction in all 50 states."

The "real question" facing Congress is how many U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents will need to be trained and put into place to handle the sheer number of criminal aliens in the U.S.

Mr. Taylor said the 20,000 additional border agents would do nothing to solve the problem of illegal immigration.

The Senate voted last month to add the 20,000 agents to the southwestern border and require a total of 700 miles of fencing within a decade. Currently, 21,394 Border Patrol agents are deployed along the nation's borders, compared with 8,597 in fiscal 2000 and 3,496 in fiscal 1993.

In a 67-27 vote, 15 Republicans joined Democrats in backing the manpower and infrastructure, but other Senate Republicans balked, saying the enhancements were chimerical and should not be used to cover over what they argued was a bad bill that does not do enough to enforce the laws and stop another wave of illegal immigration.

The Senate measure would cost more than $46 billion to pay for the additional agents and the fencing, drones, helicopters and sensors it requires.

To win GOP votes on the Senate floor, the "Gang of Eight" senators who wrote the immigration bill accepted an amendment from Sen. Bob Corker, Tennessee Republican, and Sen. John Hoeven, North Dakota Republican, to add the agents and fencing.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican and a Gang of Eight member, said the spending alone is good enough, because there is no way it can fail to end in security.

"I've been working on this for almost a decade with Sen. [John] McCain. I can look anybody in the eye and tell them that if you put 20,000 Border Patrol agents on the border in addition to the 20,000 we've already got — that's one every 1,000 feet — that will work," Mr. Graham said. "If you build the fence, that all helps. So I don't need any more than just getting it in place."

The Congressional Budget Office "has reaffirmed that immigration reform reduces the debt and grows the economy," said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat and chief sponsor of the bill. "It also shows the Corker-Hoeven amendment further substantially reduces the flow of illegal immigrants, even using a methodology that underestimates how effective immigration reform will be in reducing that flow."

House Republicans have not been as receptive. Rep. Michael T. McCaul of Texas, chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, told CBS News' "Face the Nation" that the Senate bill was "a bunch of, you know, candy thrown down there — a bunch of assets thrown down there to gain votes — but without a methodical, smart border approach."

In a separate statement, Mr. McCaul described the Senate's "border surge" as a "textbook example of government waste," adding that it arbitrarily throws resources at the border without a long-term national strategy or required outcomes. He said the Department of Homeland Security has never developed a comprehensive plan to achieve operational control of the border, which is why the government continues to see illegal border crossings shift.

"Unless we require a nationwide, results-based plan, we will inevitably spend countless taxpayer dollars only to repeat this debate a decade from now," he said.

Mr. McCaul has introduced the Border Security Results Act, one of several immigration reform packages pending in the House, that mandates a border security plan that is evaluated by outside specialists and compels Homeland Security to develop a comprehensive outcome-based strategy — defined as stopping 90 percent of illegal border crossers.

The nonpartisan CBO said the McCaul bill, known as HR 1417, would require Homeland Security to measure the effectiveness of the department's border security strategy at U.S. ports of entry and along U.S. borders. The CBO also said the bill would direct the inspector general's office at Homeland Security to carry out covert testing of security at ports of entry and report the results to the Congress.

Based on information from the affected agencies and the costs of similar activities, the CBO estimated that implementing HR 1417 would cost about $5 million from appropriated funds over the 2014-18 period, and that enacting the legislation would not affect direct spending or revenue and would impose no costs on state, local or tribal governments.

Earlier this month, the CBO said the Senate bill would keep tens of thousands of additional illegal immigrants from crossing the border each year, but would still stop only between a third and half of future illegal immigration.

The agency's analysis, which takes into account the 20,000 additional Border Patrol agents and 350 miles of new pedestrian fencing, said the bill would close the border to about 1.3 million people over the next decade but about 4 million more illegal immigrants still would get through.

Mr. Taylor said achieving real border security requires aggressive expansion of the government's 287(g) authority, which allows state and local law enforcement agencies to enter into a partnership with ICE, under a joint memorandum of understanding, to receive delegated authority for immigration enforcement within their jurisdictions.

He said border security also depends on the government's ability to close down sanctuary cities, fair and universal employer sanctions, and the denial of other benefits such as welfare, public housing and the granting of identification — such as driver's licenses — that "enable the criminal element to continue concealing their presence in our communities."

"For years, the illegal aliens being apprehended by percentages ranging from 17 to 30 percent already have criminal records inside the United States," he said. "A significant percentage of these illegal aliens are violent criminals and the number requiring further prosecution prior to removal may exceed 3 million."

He said the illegal drug and alien situation has spread to more than 2,000 U.S. cities and those engaged in both of these criminal activities are "virtually inseparable."

"This threat to public safety must be addressed first and in that process there is a reasonable likelihood that potential terrorists will also be identified and removed or incarcerated," he said. "They live among us."