NEWS

Bush's Budget Proposal Bolsters Border Security

By Matthew Harwood

The Bush Administration wants to spend 19 percent more next year on border security, reports the Los Angeles Times. The funding will go to building more fences on the U.S.-Mexico border, hiring more border agents, and increasing the frequency of workplace raids in search of illegal immigrants.

CQ Politics says the Bush Administration's early release of this information is an effort to demonstrate the issue's priority.

Nodding to public ferment over illegal immigration in a tough GOP election year, the administration announced Thursday — before the official Feb. 4 release of the federal budget request — that it would seek $12.1 billion for those efforts, up from about $10.2 billion enacted (PL 110-161) in fiscal 2008.

White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said "the release of the numbers was timed to underscore the administration’s commitment to securing the border," according to CQ Politics. Similarly, the Times noted that Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff pointed out that Bush's 2009 budget request for border security grew 150 percent since his inauguration.

Within the proposed budget for border security, Bush has requested $775 million for the border fence, bringing the total price tag to $2 billion so far. $442 million has been allocated to hire more border agents, with the goal of having a force of 20,000 agents by 2009. Another $3 billion will allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to raid more work sites in search of illegal immigrants. An additional $1.8 billion will expand ICE's ability to detain the illegal immigrants they catch by providing 1,000 more detention beds.

Chertoff said the Department of Homeland Security has erected 107 miles of pedestrian fencing and he expects 670 miles of fencing to be up by the end of year.

Reaction to the budget increase was largely positive and bipartisan.

However, House Homeland Security Chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) reigned in his enthusiasm just a bit, saying "I am encouraged to see that the administration has prioritized border security. But the challenge is too great to be addressed by just adding more resources. Proper program management and accountability are needed to translate bold plans into real solutions."

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