Monday, April 22, 2013



Border Patrol sheds belief in persistent surveillance
Sequestration has increased wait times and cut air hours
April 21, 2013 | By David Perera

The Border Patrol no longer believes that persistent surveillance
across the entirety of the southwestern border is necessary to border
control, a change from the prevalent thinking of a few years ago,
Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher told a House panel April 17.

There are sections along the southwestern border where "it's going to
take you days to get to even a road," Fisher noted, adding that the
criminal operations that send illegal shipments across the border are
driven by money considerations not to get too far away from their
bases of operation, since that extends their supply line. "And quite
frankly, you generally don't want to be exposed for days and days
because it shrinks your profit margin," Fisher added. He testified
before the House Appropriations subcommittee on homeland security.

"I'm not suggesting they don't use those areas," Fisher said, but
added that the Border Patrol wants to deploy assets based on what
makes sense in different parts of the border.

The fiscal 2014 CBP budget proposal would permit CBP to deploy up to
50 new integrated fixed towers and upgrade remote video surveillance
systems along the southwestern border, Kevin McAleenan, acting CBP
deputy commissioner, told the committee.

The budget proposal would support a total of 21,370 Border Patrol
agents and 25,252 CBP officers, McAleenan said, noting that salaries
for 1,877 CBP officers would be paid for through proposed increases
to fees assessed on commercial travelers and vessels arriving from
abroad (known as COBRA fees) and immigration user fees

In its fiscal 2014 budget request, DHS says that COBRA and
immigration fees have not kept pace with inflation; when applied to
individuals arriving from foreign countries excepting Mexico, Canada
and Caribbean islands, the fee is $5.50 but would be $10.67 if
adjusted for inflation since its 1985 creation. The air and sea
passenger immigration user fee is $7 per person; had it been adjusted
for inflation since its 1987 creation, it would be $12.13. The budget
assumes a $2 increase to both individual COBRA and immigration user
fees--to $7.50 and $9, per person, respectively--which along with
proportional increases to related fees would raise CBP $360.49
million annually, CBP projects.

When it comes to sequestration, McAleenan said CBP has "postponed
implementation of any furloughs," but has restricted overtime, and
that's had "a direct and immediate impact on wait times" at ports of
entry. Wait times at the busiest American international airports have
gone up by 50 to 100 percent, McAleenan said; about 20 to 45 percent
of CBP booths at those airports are staffed during peak demand by
officers on overtime, he added.

Land ports of entry have also seen delays. "It's an escalating impact
that can really take us from a 20- to 30-minute wait to well over an
hour and up to two hours even at those midsize ports," he said.

Randolph Alles, assistant commission for the Office of Air and
Marine, told the committee that sequestration will cause CBP to fly
roughly 80,000 fewer hours due to $377 million in cuts to the air
operations budget.

For more:
- go to the hearing webpage (prepared testimony and webcast available)


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