Sensenbrenner, Hunter: Al Qaeda Threat Demands Border Funding

House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner told HUMAN EVENTS it is “incomprehensible” that the Bush Administration is not calling for sufficient resources to secure the border in light of new information that al Qaeda has considered infiltrating the United States through Mexico.

Likewise, House Armed Services Chairman Duncan Hunter told HUMAN EVENTS that al Qaeda’s interest in penetrating the U.S. from Mexico “demonstrates that national security is unavoidably linked to border security,” and that funding border security must be a priority for this Congress.

Deputy Homeland Security Secretary James Loy, a retired admiral who served as commandant of the Coast Guard, made the revelation about al Qaeda in written testimony submitted to the Senate Intelligence Committee on February 16.

“Recent information from ongoing investigations, detentions, and emerging threat streams strongly suggests that al Qaeda has considered using the Southwest Border to infiltrate the United States,” said Loy. “Several al Qaeda leaders believe operatives can pay their way into the country through Mexico and also believe illegal entry is more advantageous than legal entry for operational security reasons.”

Loy also pointed to the risk that terrorists could enter the U.S. from Canada.

“Al Qaeda and affiliated elements currently have the capability to produce small amounts of crude biological weapons, and may have acquired small amounts of radioactive materials,” Loy said.

FBI Director Robert Mueller told the committee: “[B]ecause of al Qaeda’s directed efforts this year to infiltrate covert operatives into the U.S., I am also very concerned with the growing body of sensitive reporting that continues to show al Qaeda’s clear intention to obtain and ultimately use some form of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-energy explosives material in attacks against America.”

In December, President Bush signed the law responding to the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. It authorized doubling the Border Patrol from about 10,000 agents to 20,000 by adding 2,000 agents each year for five years. It also authorized tripling Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents (who enforce immigration laws in the interior) from 2,000 to 6,000 by adding 800 new agents per year, and tripling immigration detentions beds from 20,000 to 60,000 by adding 8,000 new beds per year.

On December 6, Bush sent a letter to the congressional conferees who negotiated this law specifically applauding the increases in Border Patrol agents and detention beds. But in the budget he submitted to Congress on February 7, he only included $37 million for 210 new Border Patrol agents. The proposal did not specify any increase in ICE agents or detention beds, and ICE spokesman Manny Van Pelt told HUMAN EVENTS February 17 the agency still has not determined what those levels would be.

“The indication that al Qaeda operatives are trying to penetrate our border through Mexico clearly demonstrates that national security is unavoidably linked to border security,” Hunter told HUMAN EVENTS. “As a result, we must make every effort to ensure that our most critical terrorism priorities, including border security, are appropriately funded. Securing our border against illegal crossing will be a budget priority for this Congress.”

“In light of Admiral Loy’s warning that al Qaeda is actively considering sending operatives into the U.S. by penetrating our porous southwestern border, it is more important than ever that 2006’s budget contain full funding for the increased Border Patrol and ICE agent strength and increased detention space that Congress passed and the President signed into law just two months ago,” Sensenbrenner told HUMAN EVENTS.

“It is incomprehensible to me that in light of this information, the administration is not calling for sufficient increases in border security resources to protect the American people,” Sensenbrenner said.

Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R.-Ariz.) told HUMAN EVENTS the increased funding for border security “should be done at once” and that Loy’s testimony reinforced “what many of us believe is obvious.”

“We need to understand that our enemies will use this [an unsecured border] as their new entry into a theater of war right here in the United States,” said Hayworth. “We need to recognize that, and we need to slam that door shut.”