The federal government wants to slow illegal immigration dramatically by hiring more Border Patrol agents, building more fences, and ending a policy that has allowed thousands of captured illegal immigrants to be released within the U.S., USA Today quotes Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff as saying. Warning that “time is not on our side” in the push to make the nation safer from potential attacks by foreign terrorists, he told business leaders in Houston that his plan reflects a “legal and civic obligation” to secure borders. He did not say how much his plan would cost. A key part of the plan – the Bush administration’s proposal for a guest-worker program – has received mixed reactions and won’t be considered until next year.
Reducing illegal immigration has become a priority for the federal government since Sept. 11, 2001. The government has stepped up security at official points of entry, but the overall flow of illegal immigrants into the country hasn’t waned. Along the U.S.-Mexican border in fiscal 2005, the Border Patrol arrested 1.1 million people. The Chertoff plan calls for adding 1,500 Border Patrol agents to the current force of 11,000 and building more fences, including a 14-mile wall near San Diego – a project that has been stalled for a decade by lawsuits from environmentalists.