A Sound Immigration Proposal (Use Volunteers)


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Desertdog
May 23, 2005, 02:05 PM
http://www.sierratimes.com/05/05/22/71_0_216_4_83654.htm
A Sound Immigration Proposal
Jon E. Dougherty

Finally, someone in government has offered a rational proposal to help solve the nation's chronic illegal immigration problem. Interestingly, the idea has been before us for years.
Robert Bonner, Customs and Border Protection commissioner, suggested to members of the House Government Reform Committee last week the Border Patrol begin to train and utilize scores of civilian volunteers, as a cost-saving force multiplier aimed at boosting the pairs of eyes along our porous southwestern border.

"We need more Border Patrol agents, there's no question about that," Bonner said. But in recognition of the cold, hard fiscal facts, he also knows he's not going to get the kinds of substantial numbers he says he needs anytime soon.

Last fall Congress authorized the hiring of another 2,000 agents. Due to persistent red ink, however, President Bush has pared that number down to just 210 in the 2006 budget.

Even a couple thousand more agents won't do the trick. Bonner, in a follow-up interview with Government Executive magazine, said the Border Patrol would need upwards of 50,000 agents (it currently fields about 11,000) to adequately patrol the nation's northern and southern borders.

The only way to get those kinds of numbers rapidly is to deploy the military along our borders not likely since the armed forces are stretched thin in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, and there is no political will to do so or take Bonner up on his suggestion and put willing volunteers to good use.

As the 850-plus volunteers with the Minuteman Project proved in April, when they deployed along a section of Arizona border, not only will the extra eyes help deter illegal immigration, but civilians can be counted on to augment Border Patrol agents without causing major incidents.

Bonner specifically acknowledged this in testimony before the House committee. "The actions of the Minutemen were, I believe, well motivated," he said. "There were no incidents, there were no acts of vigilantism, and that's a tribute to the organizers and leaders of the Minuteman Project."

He went on to note the obvious: That historically the government has relied on civilians to be "the eyes and ears of the Border Patrol along the border."

"We value citizens' help. The question would be, 'is there a way to ... better and more effectively harness the citizen volunteers?'" he said. "That is something we are looking at. I don't have the answer. But we want any kind of force multiplier we can get. But if we're going to do it, I think it's important we recognize the border is a dangerous area, and we want to be able to provide at least some insights and possibly even training to any citizens volunteering to go down."

No one knows how dangerous and out-of-control areas of the U.S.-Mexico border are better than many of the volunteers and residents who have weathered the immigration storm for years. If anything, they can teach Washington a thing or two about what it takes to get our borders under control.

Nevertheless, the fact that a high-ranking federal official has even suggested using willing civilians to augment our overwhelmed Border Patrol is a huge step in the right direction.

Suburban and rural communities for decades have had their own "neighborhood watch" programs, whereby residents keep a lookout for shady activities and alert police when problems arise. That's all the Minuteman Project and similar, prior civilian initiatives ever sought to accomplish.

Congress would be well advised to take Bonner's proposition and run with it.

Jon E. Dougherty is author of Illegals: The Imminent Threat Posed by our Unsecured U.S.-Mexico Border, and editor of Voices Magazine [www.voicesmag.com].

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