Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano
The State Department is recruiting 120 Border Patrol agents to send to Iraq, prompting sharp criticism from two border-state governors who argue the U.S. needs more help on its own frontier.
In a letter to President Bush, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said the move “makes no sense,” the Tucson’s Arizona Star reported.
“We should be focused on supporting our nation’s security efforts along the Mexican and Canadian border instead of hampering CBP (Customs and Border Protection) by sending our best agents to a war zone in Iraq,” the governors wrote.
The Star said DynCorp recruiters will be in Tucson today to offer agents $134,114 for a one-year contract, plus a $25,000 signing bonus.
The criticism comes as the federal government prepares for a phase-down as early as July of National Guard troops stationed along the border.
The troops were deployed last year as part of Bush’s “Operation Jump Start,” which put them in a strictly supportive rule while new Border Patrol officers were hired and trained.
Capt. Kristine Munn told the Tucson paper about 2,400 Guard soldiers are in Arizona as part of the program. Beginning July 1, the troops will be reduced to about 1,200.
The Border Patrol said the number of trained agents in the Tucson Sector increased by about 100, from 2,500 when Operation Jump Start began.
Spokesman Jesus Rodriguez told the Star new agents are coming “all the time,” but the governors contend it’s not enough.
“We urge you to insist that the National Guard presence be maintained at current levels unless and until the Border Patrol is staffed sufficiently to replace Guard troops on a one-to-one basis,” the governors wrote.
Prior to Tucson, the DynCorp recruiters made stops in Laredo, Texas, and Tampa, Fla. They will be in Miami Friday.
The company says successful applicants, who need four years experience, will go to Iraq to provide training, technical assistance and mentoring to officers of the Iraqi Department of Border Enforcement.