Confusion over President Bush’s proposal for a guest-worker program for illegal immigrants has fueled a rush across the Southwest border that threatens to overwhelm the U.S. Border Patrol in some areas, agents say in intelligence reports, reports the Los Angeles Times. The Border Patrol questions the connection between the Bush plan – which is stalled in Congress – and the sharp increase in illegal crossings. Reports compiled by rank-and-file agents who patrol the border contend that the January announcement created confusion throughout Latin America, raising expectations of amnesty for new U.S. arrivals.
Agents say that amid the commotion, foreign terrorists might have an easier time slipping into the country. Detentions of illegal immigrants at the border have risen 30 percent in the first seven months of the fiscal year, which includes the four months since Bush announced his plan. Bush would give three-year renewable work visas to millions of undocumented immigrants inside the U.S. and to others who wish to enter and can prove they have been offered a job.
Rank-and-file agents, many of whom back the Bush administration, have been critical of the immigration plan, calling it a slap in the face to thousands who have devoted their careers to policing the border and catching illegal immigrants. Top Border Patrol officials point out that illegal immigration was increasing before Bush’s announcement. Detentions rose 6.4 percent from January 2003 to January 2004. As word of Bush’s proposal and rumors of amnesty spread, apprehensions jumped rapidly – by 14.2 percent in February, 57.5 percent in March and 79.6 percent in April.