The top U.S. border enforcement official said yesterday he is exploring the idea of having civilian volunteers work with the Border Patrol. “We value having eyes and ears of citizens, and I think that would be one of the things we are looking at is how you better organize, let’s say, a citizen effort,” Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Robert C. Bonner told The Associated Press, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune. The proposal comes after civilian patrols were organized in California and Arizona this year. “It is actually as a result of seeing that there is the possibility in local border communities, and maybe even beyond, of having citizens that would be willing to volunteer to help the Border Patrol – but with some training and being organized in a way that would be something akin to a Border Patrol auxiliary,” Bonner said.
Bonner and other officials, including President Bush, have said that such groups, if armed, risk becoming vigilantes. Another idea, the creation of a California state border-policing agency, is addressed in a statewide ballot initiative for next year’s ballot. If it is approved, the California Border Patrol would be authorized to enter into an agreement with the federal government to enforce federal immigration laws. The cost is uncertain, depending on the size of the force, but the state’s legislative analyst estimated the tab at $200 million annually for every 1,000 uniformed officers.