Border Patrol agents detain an illegal border crosser after chasing him down near the U.S.-Mexico border at Mission, Texas.

Border Patrol agents detain an illegal border crosser after chasing him down near the U.S.-Mexico border at Mission, Texas

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is planning to cut 50 percent of the budget for aerial surveillance along the U.S.-Mexico border, agents revealed at a congressional hearing Thursday.

In an effort to understand why DHS is cutting funding, Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, wrote a bipartisan letter to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson.

“Any decrease in aerial observation is not only imprudent, but contradicts the very mission of border security enforcement,” the letter states.

The lawmakers’ letter also asks for detailed information about the reduction aerial-based border security, also known as Operation Phalanx.

Abbott and Cuellar describe news of the funding cut for border security as “unsettling.”

“It has come to our attention that for calendar year 2016 the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) requested 3,850 hours of persistent aerial detection, situational awareness and monitoring capability support for Operation Phalanx from the Department of Defense (DOD). This request was fifty percent lower than that of recent years. Given the recent surge of migrants from Central America and Cuba along the southern border, we believe DHS should request more surveillance and security resources, not fewer. Moreover, Texas requested additional aerial observation resources in a September 30, 2015, letter that went unanswered by your department.

“The fact that DHS now appears to be taking the opposite approach is unsettling.”

Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, said she learned of the plans to cut the funding at Thursday’s House Judiciary hearing, at which she also testified.

Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw mentioned it.

Jessica Vaughan, research fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies

Jessica Vaughan, research fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies

“It’s very concerning – with the security risks now confronting our nation, and a continuing influx of illegal migration across the southern border that includes criminal smuggling activity, why on earth would the government want to slash in half an important asset like aerial border surveillance?” Vaughan told WND. “That’s the kind of program that enables us to know what is happening on the border and what is getting by, so that agents on the ground can be sent to intercept.”

The surveillance is critical to what is known in the security business as “situational awareness,” said Vaughan.

“Apparently, the Obama administration doesn’t want to know what is coming across the border, and doesn’t want the Border Patrol to know, either,” she said.

William Gheen, president of Americans for Legal Immigration, or ALIPAC, said the situation at the border continues to spin out of control.

“We have also heard that Border Patrol has been ordered to just catch and release illegals without detaining them,” he said. “With the new unprecedented wave of illegal immigration coming in via the ‘border surge’ and the new wave of (more than 28,000) Cubans illegally immigrating to the U.S., it appears word has reached all reaches of the earth that America’s defensive shields have been sabotaged from within.”

No longer enforcing U.S. law

The news about pending cuts in surveillance comes on the heels of Thursday’s report that the Obama administration was no longer enforcing U.S. law at the southern border, allowing illegal alien women and children to enter freely with a “catch-and-release” policy.

The illegals are caught, given notice to appear in court for a deportation hearing and released. But more than 40 percent have been ignoring the court summons, which became a source of deep embarrassment to the DHS, said Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, at the hearing Thursday. So, to ameliorate the embarrassment, the notices to appear are no longer being handed out as long as the person entering doesn’t have a felony record.

Fired for doing their jobs?

Furthermore, on Thursday, a top Border Patrol agent revealed that if border agents follow the law and ask illegal aliens why they are coming to the U.S., they will be terminated, the Daily Caller reported.

“Right now, the Border Patrol has actually told us that we can no longer ask them that question, why are they coming any more?” Judd testified. “We can’t even ask that question. In some cases, we still do, but we are being told that you can’t even ask why they are coming.”

“What do you think are the consequences for agents who are unwilling to comply with these limiting policies?” asked Rep. Raul Labrador.

“They’ll be terminated,” Judd replied.

He said no agents have yet been fired because the agents in Judd’s group follow the policy directives.

Illegal immigration surged in 2014, and Judd said, “We’re actually seeing a lot more at this point than what we did in 2014.” He added that the Border Patrol currently does not have the resources to adequately respond.

“Why did the cartels drive them to the middle of the desert and then have them cross over the Rio Grande only to surrender to the first Border Patrol Agent they came across?” Judd told the committee. “The reason is that it completely tied up our manpower and allowed the cartels to smuggle whatever they wanted across our border.”

“Our gates are wide open, and the final siege of America is well under way,” Gheen told WND.

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