July 21, 2000
Report: Canada-USA border full of holes
WASHINGTON The border between the USA and Canada is so poorly staffed that illegal immigrants and contraband are slipping easily into the country.
A federal report by the inspector general at the Department of Justice found that the Border Patrol lacks the people and equipment to monitor illegal activity and "cannot accurately quantify how many illegal aliens and drug smugglers it fails to apprehend."
The report found:
* Fewer than 4% of the nation's Border Patrol agents are assigned to the Canada-USA line. That amounts to about 300 agents for almost 4,000 miles of border. More than 7,700 agents patrol the border along Mexico.
* One border sector has 65 smuggling corridors along 300 miles but had only 36 electronic motion and heat sensors to monitor them.
* Some sectors do not have adequate jail space, so illegal aliens are released into the community to await trial. Border Patrol agents sarcastically call the practice the "catch and release program."
* Some shifts have no patrol coverage, which leaves the border
open to illegal activity.
A USA TODAY survey of border crossings in January found that in sparsely populated areas, immigration officials close the border at 10 p.m. by lining up orange cones in the road. The port of entry is left unstaffed until the next morning.
Ex-INS Officials Call for Amnesty
Former top immigration officials joined the chorus of voices calling yesterday for a program to legalize millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States.
At a Manhattan news conference (July 12, 2000), three former Immigration and Naturalization Service district directors spoke of the need for an amnesty program, citing the country's booming economy and unfilled jobs in many sectors.
They joined immigrant advocates and religious and labor leaders in calling for an amnesty program that would benefit from 5 million to 8 million newcomers to the country.
"The system is broken," said William Carroll, the former INS district director in Washington, D.C. "There is a need for labor in this country. There is a need to fill jobs. Yet there is no system to fill these jobs except through the undocumented." About 3 million undocumented immigrants benefited from the last amnesty offered in 1986. Currently, there is no bill in Congress offering amnesty across the board to all recent undocumented immigrants.
In calling for another amnesty, the former INS officials stressed that such a proposal needs to be accompanied not only with strict border enforcement but a program that also addresses future U.S. labor needs. In addition, any new amnesty proposal will have to eliminate the fraud that was involved in the 1986 program, they said.
"Amnesty is inevitable," said Benedict Ferro, the former INS district director in Baltimore and the person who ran the 1986 legalization program for the agency. "It's a question of when."
(Information for this column provided by the Center for Immigration Studies, Washington.)