The Immigration and Naturalization Service has proposed closing two
Border Patrol stations and one substation in a southwestern United
States sector, a move that Border Patrol union leaders say will worsen
illegal immigration in those areas and beyond.

INS sent a letter to the

National Border Patrol Council
July 18 detailing the closures. If approved by Congress, INS labor chief Robert S. Sherman said in his letter to the union that the San Marcos, Calif., substation would close, along with the Phoenix, Ariz., and Boulder City, Nev., stations.

Sherman said the closures would affect 13 Border Patrol agent positions as well as two secretary’s positions. Affected personnel would be reassigned to other offices.

Smugglers will often drive carloads of illegal aliens and “shotgun” many vehicles through a single area, knowing the Border Patrol can only catch one of them.

The union is opposing the closures on the grounds that closing the stations would hamper the Border Patrol’s ability to apprehend illegal aliens in other than border areas.

“INS is attempting to place all of the Border Patrol’s resources directly on the border,” said the National Border Patrol Council in a statement. But, the union said, “as evidenced by the … numbers, the Border Patrol is unable to stop all, or even most, illegal immigration at the border.”

The council said the Border Patrol apprehends about one million illegal immigrants annually, but that officially, there are estimated to be about six million illegal immigrants in the U.S. The union said the actual number may be double that.

Therefore, the union said, “closing these stations deprives the communities of the only federal law-enforcement officers who will arrest and remove criminal and non-criminal illegal aliens from their midst.”

Founded in 1967, the National Border Patrol Council represents all 8,250 non-supervisory Border Patrol employees. It is affiliated with the American Federation of Government Employees and the AFL-CIO, and has 15 constituent locals. More than 5,400 employees voluntarily pay membership dues.

A spokesman with the Phoenix police said his department doesn’t deal much with the Border Patrol and the closure of the patrol’s office there wouldn’t have much effect.

Ron Reina, public relations specialist with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department — which patrols San Marcos — agreed to a point, but added that often the Border Patrol and Sheriff’s Department work together on related cases.

“Interdiction of illegal immigrants is not our function,” Reina told WorldNetDaily, “but often our deputies are called to help the Border Patrol with pursuits and other cases they’re working on.”

Many times, he said, “immigrant smugglers will travel off the main highways and instead use the rural roads. If the driver doesn’t negotiate a turn, the van turns over and injures or kills a number of immigrants. We help the Border Patrol in these kinds of incidents, too.”

Reina said illegal immigration “has been a major problem” for years along the San Diego-San Marcos corridor. He also noted that the Border Patrol has substantially boosted its posting of agents in the area within the past few years, and that the “focus” of interdiction “has shifted out into the eastern, rural part of the county.”

Yet, INS said in its letter to the National Border Patrol Council, “Essentially … the operational considerations that led to the establishment of the San Marcos Substation are no longer significant in the broader context of the Border Patrol Mission.

“The entire agent compliment assigned to San Marcos” — 10 agents and one secretary — “has been detailed to the El Cajon Station,” INS’ Sherman said, in explaining the agency’s decision.

Cost concerns were also cited by INS.

“Closing the San Marcos substation will eliminate the cost associated with maintaining this facility,” Sherman wrote.

Sherman added that the San Marcos substation would be closed “within 90 days of congressional approval.”

Meanwhile, a former Border Patrol sector chief proposed setting up watering stations in the Anza-Borrego desert for illegal immigrants.

The former agent, Tom Wacker, said volunteers — with government permission — could place two one-gallon water jugs at each station.

“It isn’t much,” he said, but in an area where daytime temperatures regularly exceed 110 degrees in summer, “it could save a life.”

Fourteen illegal immigrants have died from heat exposure in the area so far this year.

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