Thursday, February 10, 2005

Bush Makes Priorities Clear

After previously signing legislation that required the hiring of thousands of additional border patrol agents, the Bush administration slyly used the fiction of fiscal discipline to weasel its way out of that commitment.

Officially approved by Bush on Dec. 17 after extensive bickering in Congress, the National Intelligence Reform Act included the requirement to add 10,000 border patrol agents in the five years beginning with 2006. Roughly 80 percent of the agents were to patrol the southern U.S. border from Texas to California, along which thousands of people cross into the United States illegally every year.

But Bush's proposed 2006 budget, revealed Monday, funds only 210 new border agents.

The shrunken increase reflects the lack of money for an army of border guards and the capacity to train them, officials said.

Retired Adm. James Loy, acting head of the Department of Homeland Security until nominee Michael Chertoff takes over, said funding only 210 new agents was a "recognition that we need to balance those things as we go on down the road with other priorities."

The White House referred questions about the border agents to the Homeland Security Department.

The law signed by Bush had a caveat that went virtually unreported at the time. A summary, published by the Senate Government Affairs Committee, required the government to increase the number of border patrol agents by at least 2,000 per year, "subject to available appropriations."

One really can't complain, of course. The Bush administration has made its position on illegal immigration perfectly clear over the past four years: they just doesn't care. In the Karl Rove/George W. Bush perspective, the more Mexicans who flow across the southern border, the better. That these millions of illegal aliens are undercutting American workers and driving down their standard of living means nothing to the White House. That an unsecured border crossed daily by thousands of aliens whose points of origin and intentions we do not know, clearly doesn't concern the administration. That American cities and towns are increasingly flooded by waves of people who don't speak English (and increasingly refuse to learn it) and show little sign of assimilating into American culture, apparently strikes the president and his counselors as a perfectly acceptable situation.

It is doubtful, however, that the American people see it this way. Illegal immigration will likely become an increasingly important issue among voters sick of watching their society dissolve around them. Democrats - desperate for an issue, any issue - like Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton - have already siezed on immigration as the GOP's achilles heel. Of course, the Democrat Party has been so long wedded to the politics of racial identity that it may be hard for Ms. Clinton to effectively argue against illegal immigration without alienating her party's fractured base. Who amongst the left will first hurl the dreaded "racist!" epithet at Ms. Clinton?

From budgets that reveal deficits as far as the eye can see and massive entitlement give-aways to open borders and Wilsonian crusades ... Watching the Bush Administration systematically betray every principle of conservative thought while being hailed as savior by conservatives provides interesting theater. Sooner or later, however, conservatives are going to wake up and realize that someone had a really great party on their credit card, and has left them a crushing bill. Rather like the Democrats after the Clinton administration.


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