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Bloated Budget of US Customs and Border Protection Buys More Nap-Time for Agents

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Border Patrol immigration

Here’s a question: how many border agents does it take to the protect the border?

The real-life answer is that we’ll never find out because apparently, a significant number of them have been known to fall asleep on the job.

If Congress is looking for places to slim down out-of-control bureaucracies, they should take a really close look at the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). Officers in that agency have been known to fight boredom by falling asleep. That is no joke, especially when you consider the amount of resources our government funnels into these program — take a look at the numbers:

  • As this chart shows, spending by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) skyrocketed from almost $7.5 billion in 2002 to over $17 billion in 2010.

  • Over the last decade, agents on the northern border have increase by 700 percent (up from 300 agents to 2,263); the number of Border Patrol agents stationed along the Mexican grew to 16,974 in Fiscal Year (FY) 2009.

  • The Immigration Policy Center notes that the annual budget of the U.S. Border Patrol stood at $3.0 billion in FY 2009 – nine times the FY 1992 budget. 

They literally have so much money, staff, and resources that they don’t know what to do with it — other than nap. You can only imagine the return.

As the Seattle Weekly News reported last week, if you dial 911 in some towns in Washington state (even towns nowhere near the border) the Border Patrol answers the phone.

Instead of hiring 911 dispatchers, local governments have contracted those services out to US Customs and Border Protection because they apparently have way too much free time on their hands.

Such a move goes way beyond the mission of the Border Patrol, and it’s not contained to just Washington state. This is happening all over the country.

In New York, border agents have boarded domestic trains and buses. In Minnesota, agents pass the time listening to local police scanners, and show up without being asked.

The Border Patrol is technically responsible for all territory within 100 miles from the international border, but the agency’s ambitions have since moved inland — no doubt made possible by a huge increase of funds since 2001, and a decrease in the number of border crossings.

“They don’t seem to have a lot to do,” Michele McKenzie told the Seattle Weekly News. As a lawyer with The Advocates for Human Rights, she has personally witnessed border agents fanning out across rural communities in Minnesota and North Dakota.

This waste is just one of the many side-effects of Lamar Smith’s “enforcement only” immigration policies, and the entire scheme to mass-deport 11 million undocumented immigrants is wasting our taxpayers billions of dollars. According to a study by the Center for American Progress, deporting approximately 10 million undocumented immigrants would cost at least $206 billion over five years, or $41.2 billion annually. And no matter how high or wide a fence, or how many alligators in a moat, enforcement initiatives to “protect the border” are futile in the absence of practical solutions like comprehensive immigration reform

In the wake of our country’s recent debt-ceiling debacle, these facts warrant a thoughtful and serious conversation about CBP’s out-of-control government spending, which is buying our country more nap-time for border patrol agents.