GOP House Approves CR Allowing Obama to Continue Paring Back Border Patrol

By Terence P. Jeffrey | March 21, 2013 | 10:19am EDT

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, House Speaker John Boehner, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

( - The Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted on Thursday to adopt a set of Senate-approved amendments to the continuing resolution to fund the government for the rest of this fiscal year that gives the Obama administration the discretion to slightly decrease the number of Border Patrol agents.

That could make 2013 the second year in a row when the administration has decreased the size of the Border Patrol, according to official data released by the Border Patrol itself.

In fiscal 2011, according to the Border Patrol, there were 21,444 Border Patrol agents. Of these, 232 were deployed along U.S. coastlines, 2,237 were deployed along the U.S.-Canada border, and 18,506 were deployed along the U.S.-Mexico border.

In fiscal 2012, according to the Border Patrol, the total number of Border Patrol agents decreased by 50 to 21,394. Of these, 224 were deployed on U.S. coastlines, 2,206 were deployed on the U.S.-Canada border and 18,516 were deployed on the U.S.-Mexico border.

The amendments to the continuing resolution that passed the Senate on Wednesday were approved by the House on Thursday morning by a vote of 318 to 109.Only 27 House Republicans voted against them.

The language in the Senate amendments to the CR only requires the administration to maintain at least 21,370 Border Patrol agents—another 20 less than the government fielded last year, and 70 less than it fielded two years ago.

To keep the government funded another CR only needs to be enacted by March 27--six days from now--when the current CR expires.

The section of the new Senate-passed CR (that the House takes up today) that governs spending on Customs and Border Protection says: “Provided further, That the Border Patrol shall maintain an active duty presence of not less than 21,370 full-time equivalent agents protecting the borders of the United States in the fiscal year.”

In a January 29 speech calling for “comprehensive immigration reform” that would give illegal aliens a “pathway to citizenship,” President Barack Obama boasted that his administration had put more Border Patrol agents on the southern border than at any previous time.

“First, we strengthened security at the borders so we could stem the tide of illegal immigrants,” Obama said. “We put more boots on the ground, on the southern border than at any time in our history.”

A page on the White House website dedicated to Border Security claims Obama has "doubled" the number of Border Patrol agents.

“President Obama has doubled the number of Border Patrol agents and today border security is stronger than it has ever been," says the page. "But there is more work to do.”

However, according to the official Border Patrol data, Obama did not double the number of Border Patrol agents.

There were 20,119 Border Patrol agents in fiscal year 2009, which started on Oct. 1, 2008 before Obama was elected president. Of those 20,119 Border Patrol agents on duty in fiscal 2009, 223 were on the coastlines, 1,887 were on the Canadian border, and 17,408 were on the Mexican border.

In the four fiscal years from 2009 through 2012, the overall number of Border Patrol agents did not double. It went from 20,119 to 21,394—an increase of 1,275, or 6.3 percent.

From 2009 through 2012, the number of Border Patrol agents specifically deployed to the U.S. Mexico border went from 17,408 to 18,516—an increase of 1,108 or 6.4 percent.

Up through fiscal 2010, which ended on Sept. 30, 2010, the Border Patrol used a metric called “border miles under operational control” to measure its performance. A border mile under operational control, according to the Government Accountability Office, was one in which the government “had the capability to detect, respond to, and interdict cross-border illegal activity.”

Less than a month ago, on Feb. 26, GAO Director of Homeland Security and Justice Issues Rebecca Gambler told the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on the Border in written testimony that when the administration stopped using border miles under operations control to measure the Border Patrol’s performance, 56 percent of the U.S.—Mexico border was not under control. That means the U.S. government did not have the ability to detect and interdict illegal border crossers along more than half of the U.S.-Mexico border.

“At the end of fiscal year 2010, DHS reported achieving varying levels of operational control of 873 (44 percent) of the nearly 2,000 southwest border miles,” Gambler testified.

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