Obama Calls Retreat with Border Station Closures

Obama administration officials have announced yet another step backwards from effective border control and immigration law enforcement.  Citing the need to save money and consolidate operations closer to the border, the Customs and Border Protection agency (CBP), which includes the Border Patrol, will close nine border patrol stations:  six in Texas, one in California, one in Montana, and one in Idaho. Forty-one agents and seven support staffers will be relocated from the “deactivated” stations to posts closer to the border.

This move is a blow to public safety in the nine areas that are directly affected, and will create new safe zones for human and drug smugglers to move their loads across the country. It also suggests that the president is bent on replacing our effective layered approach to border security, which allows for the border patrol to apprehend illegal aliens even deep within the interior of the country, with a 21st century Maginot Line, with agents and fancy technology concentrated along the border itself, but free passage for illegal aliens who make it past the frontier.

Clustering all of our assets on the border is an absurd strategy (unless you are concerned more with facilitating illegal immigration than stopping it).  With economists forecasting sustained high unemployment for years to come, state and local governments going broke, and foreign drug cartels and terror groups established in hundreds of U.S. cities, the federal government ought to be adding border patrol stations in the interior, not closing them.

The list of stations on the chopping block includes some located in large interior cities with big illegal settlements: Dallas and San Antonio, Texas, and Riverside, California, where the CBP sister enforcement agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), is overwhelmed.  The others are in less populous areas, but situated at key highway crossroads that see significant trafficking and smuggling of people and contraband:  Abilene, San Angelo, Lubbock, and Amarillo in Texas, plus Billings, Montana, and Twin Falls, Idado.

Localized CBP statistics are hard to come by, but reportedly the Lubbock and Amarillo stations, staffed with nine agents, produced nearly one thousand illegal alien arrests in the last year.  Think about it -- those nine agents saved a thousand jobs for legal U.S. workers and who knows how many thousands of dollars in taxpayer-funded services, not to mention probably prevented a few criminals from setting up shop or driving drunk or recruiting kids into a gang in a town near you.

True, the agents are being relocated, not laid off, but there are good reasons to keep them in the interior rather than on the border itself.  Because the Mexican drug cartels have taken control of all routes into the United States, it is impossible now to cross the southern border illegally without paying a smuggler.  The process is often violent, but also highly organized.  The smugglers exploit the many parts of the border that are still only lightly controlled (85 percent of the southern border is less than tightly controlled, according to the GAO). In addition, smugglers bring loads through legal crossing points, either with fake documents, as imposters, hidden in large trucks, or co-mingled with church groups, sports teams, and musical groups.

It is widely believed that two-thirds of those attempting to cross illegally into the United States will get past the Border Patrol.  The smuggled aliens (and other cargo) do not stay in the border area for long.  They are taken to drop houses and then put on vans that travel on interstate highways to their destination.  It takes as little as 48 hours to get from the southwest border to most points in the continental United States.  Points along these highway arteries that formerly were considered off the beaten track, like rural enclaves in North Carolina, Ohio, and Utah, have become outposts for well-armed transnational crime syndicates and the lucrative smuggling networks and street gangs that sustain them.