No Time To Back Off On Border Commitment

It’s no secret that al-Qaeda operatives may be trying to sneak into the United States through Mexico. They’d have to be stupid to ignore America’s 1,989-mile sovereign sieve of a southern border. And as we know all too well, they are not stupid. Would that they were. And it’s now known that Hezbollah has operations in Latin America.

What is hard to fathom, however, is President George Bush’s decision to drastically slash the proposed increase in Border Patrol agents next year. When Congress passed the intelligence reform bill in December, it authorized an additional 2,000 agents; Bush is requesting 210.

This is not the place for nominal budget cuts and symbolic deficit-reduction gestures. Nor is this the time to back off beefing up America’s notoriously porous border as if the security issue will forever be relegated to bilateral spats over illegal immigrants and smugglers.

Then again, perhaps the president prefers the neighborhood watch approach.

Next month about 1,000 volunteers are expected to descend on a 40-mile stretch of the Arizona-Mexican border. They will become temporary – but de facto – border guards. Actual contact with migrants will be officially forbidden, but volunteers with handgun permits can still carry their weapons.

Critics obviously see the “Minuteman Project” as incipient vigilantism.

That may be an overreaction. What isn’t is the sobering realization that border defense on the cheap – in a post-9/11 world – is unconscionable and scary.

The debate is far from over as to whether this country is safer for having invaded Iraq. There should be no debate, however, when it comes to the correlation between safety and the intruder-inviting 1,989 miles of U.S.-Mexico border.

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