House Republicans Trim Border Security Budget, Despite Calls for More Resources

VIDEO: Border Security Benchmarks?
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When it comes to border security, House Republicans have been outspoken and unambiguous.

They say more resources are needed to stop illegal flows of immigrants, drugs and weapons entering the U.S., and insist the Obama administration has not acted aggressively enough to bolster border security.

"The President's budget proves once again that the Obama administration is not serious about enforcing our nation's immigration laws," said Texas Rep. Lamar Smith earlier this month. "By underfunding key national security programs, we leave ourselves vulnerable to future terrorist attacks."

But even as GOP lawmakers demand tighter border enforcement as a prerequisite for comprehensive immigration reform legislation, Republicans in the House have approved a 2012 budget that seems to undermine that goal.

The House voted mostly along party lines over the weekend to slash spending by an estimated $600 million for border security and immigration enforcement for the remainder of this fiscal year.

The budget allocates $350 million less for border security fencing, infrastructure and technology than Congress approved last year, and $124 million below what the Department of Homeland Security requested.

The bill also cuts an estimated $159 million over last year for Customs and Border Protection modernization and construction programs, and is $40 million less than the agency sought to get the job done.

Republicans approved salaries and expenses for "no fewer than" 20,500 Border Patrol agents through the fiscal year. President Obama's fiscal year 2012 budget, by comparison, would provide for 21,185 Border Patrol agents, according to estimates provided by the administration.

"For gosh sakes, we've had everybody talking about 'Secure the borders, secure the borders, secure the borders,' and then instead of making some reasonable adjustments in checks we write to oil companies, they're cutting border security," said Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill on "Fox News Sunday."

The cuts "will severely jeopardize the administration's plan to increase the use of technologies that have proven effective in securing our border," said Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.

But Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., who chairs the House Budget Committee, has defended the cuts saying that agencies like the Department of Homeland Security had significant budget increases last year and that funding levels are not sustainable.

"We cannot continue down this path of having double- and triple-digit spending increases on government agencies," he said earlier this month. "No matter how popular sounding these programs are, they mortgage our children's future and they compromise our economic growth today."

Wanting It Both Ways on Border Security

Ryan's view that some immigration enforcement funding is dispensable sharply contrasts with the urgency of recent calls by many Republicans for more money and manpower in the name of national security.

"Advanced technology has aided the mission of deterring and detecting illegal immigrants before they enter our country. Still, a substantial stretch of land goes undetected each and every day," said Georgia Republican Rep. Phil Gingrey, who traveled the U.S.-Mexico border from El Paso, Texas, to Arizona with two Republican colleagues last month.

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