In December, he signed a law responding to the recommendations of the 9-11 commission that authorized doubling the Border Patrol from about 10,000 agents to 20,000 by adding 2,000 new agents each year for five years. The law also authorized tripling the number of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents (who enforce immigration laws in the interior of the country) from 2,000 to 6,000 by adding 800 new agents each year for five years. And, finally, it authorized tripling from 20,000 to 60,000 the number of beds for detaining illegal aliens by adding 8,000 per year for five years.
On Dec. 6, the president sent a letter to the congressional conferees who negotiated this law, specifically lauding its Border Patrol and detention bed provisions. "I also believe," wrote Bush, "the conference took an important step in strengthening our immigration laws by, among other items, increasing the number of Border Patrol agents and detention beds."
The president's budget, however, would short-change the Border Patrol by 1,790 new agents next year. On Feb. 8, the day after the budget was released, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Spokesman Manny Van Pelt told me that "we haven't yet determined" the number of new ICE agents and new detention beds the budget includes.
On Jan. 24, the five House conferees on the 9-11 bill -- House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner, House International Relations Chairman Henry Hyde, House Armed Services Chairman Duncan Hunter, House Rules Chairman David Dreier and House Intelligence Chairman Peter Hoekstra -- sent Bush a letter asking him to seek full funding for the resources the bill authorized. They specifically cited among the "most important" items needing full funding: the doubling of the Border Patrol, the tripling of the ICE agents and the tripling of the detentions beds.
These senior legislators were right. In a budget that clearly envisions a threat at our border, Bush should have fully funded the authorized increases in border security he himself just signed into law. Congress should fund them anyway -- taking the money from domestic spending proposals that have nothing to do with national security.