U.S. Border Patrol Moved to Katrina Area, Border Vulnerable
NewsMax | September 2, 2005
By Dave Eberhart
U.S. Border Patrol officers are being shifted away from their posts guarding the U.S.-Mexico border to aid in the Katrina Hurricane disaster, leaving the country vulnerable to illegals and terrorists attempting to enter the U.S., NewsMax has learned.
The Bush administration ordered the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the federal agency charged with securing the border, to provide manpower, assets, and humanitarian support to Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts, which has some border state residents nervous that the thin red line of protection from the plague of illegals, drug smugglers and gang members will be stretched even thinner.
CBP is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that, post-9/11, combined the inspection workforces and broad border authorities of Customs, Immigration, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the entire Border Patrol.
CBP includes more than 41,000 employees to manage, control and protect the Nation's long and unfortified borders at and between the official ports of entry. Recently, the U.S. Senate voted against fulfilling its pledge from last year to hire 2,000 more Border Patrol agents and fund 8,000 new detention beds for illegal aliens in fiscal 2006.
According to CBP, however, plenty of its scarce resources are now committed to rescue and law enforcement support in the multi-state areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
Its fixed wing aircraft are used for transportation and for surveillance/reconnaissance efforts to identify anyone in peril. CBP helicopters are also used in transport and in search and rescue efforts.
The air support efforts are being coordinated through an airborne command center, which includes airborne radar and traffic management capabilities. Marine support is also providing transportation and rescue assistance. And CBP is sending over one hundred Border Patrol agents to provide law enforcement support to the impacted area. As CBP pointed out to NewsMax, its relief teams in the New Orleans area are not by any means gratuitous. The proliferation of ports of entry in the area means that the agency has a large number of CBP personnel regularly on the ground. Many of these CBP personnel were hit by the storm and are in need of relief.
In other words, the agency to some measure is riding to the relief of its own troops.
Indeed, an agency relief team has been established and is working to provide food, shelter and funds to CBP personnel displaced by the hurricane. Furthermore, an 800 number has been established to provide information on the status of recovery efforts and to serve as a support line for CBP personnel, their relatives, and other members of the DHS family. The number is 1.888.546.3727.
CBP says it is also working in coordination with several other government agencies to bring relief to the devastated area. CBP has staff on the DHS Interagency Incident Management Group (IIMG) Command Center, the FEMA National Command Center, and the on-scene Emergency Operations Center. In addition, a CBP senior manager is serving as the FEMA Regional Air Coordinator.
The agency also emphasized its twin goals: "CBP's priority mission is preventing terrorists and terrorist weapons from entering the United States, while also facilitating the flow of legitimate trade and travel."
With regard to that latter goal, CBP points out the large number of key ports in the hurricane zone: Birmingham, Huntsville, Mobile, Gulfport, Pascagoula, Vicksburg, Baton Rouge, Gramercy, Morgan City, New Orleans, Lake Charles, and Shreveport.
Some of these ports have been 100 percent knocked out in the wake of Katrina.