2/10/2005

Border Patrol, Shmorder Patrol

The San Francisco Chronicle reported yesterday on President Bush's shameful retreat from the promise of 10,000 border agents required by the National Intelligence Reform Act.

Officially approved by Bush on Dec. 17 after extensive bickering in Congress, the National Intelligence Reform Act included the requirement to add 10,000 border patrol agents in the five years beginning with 2006. Roughly 80 percent of the agents were to patrol the southern U.S. border from Texas to California, along which thousands of people cross into the United States illegally every year.

But Bush's proposed 2006 budget, revealed Monday, funds only 210 new border agents.

The shrunken increase reflects the lack of money for an army of border guards and the capacity to train them, officials said.
The problem is not, as the Chronicle so generously puts it, a "lack of money." Rather, it is a misplacement of priorities. Perhaps we could get more people on the borders of our country if we weren't spending $100 million on the Polish military:
President Bush told President Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland on Wednesday that he would ask Congress for $100 million to modernize the Polish military, part of a program of support for a new NATO ally that has more than 2,000 soldiers in Iraq.

The $100 million for military modernization was hinted at by the new secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, during a brief stopover in Warsaw a week ago. "I don't get to write the checks in the American system," Mr. Bush cautioned. "The government - the Congress does that. But I get to put out requests."

Mr. Kwasniewski said the money was not a quid pro quo for Poland's troop presence in Iraq. But clearly, returning home with financial commitments from Mr. Bush will help him in a parliamentary debate about how long to remain in Iraq, at a time when opinion polls show that a clear majority of Poles want an end to the troops presence.
Of course, rooting out ludicrous budget items like the $100,000 for the Punxsutawney Phil Groundhog Weather Museum would probably shake loose quite a bit of money for border patrol agents as well.

President Bush, never one to forget Poland, is right to do what he can to help our allies. But there are times and situations in which America and her security must come first. Immigration in general is one of the weak points of this administration, and this latest development further serves to underline just how big the President's blind spot is on this issue.