January 26, 2002
Bush proposes more security at U.S. borders
By PAUL M. KRAWZAK
Copley Washington correspondent
SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — President Bush on Friday proposed spending $2.1 billion to increase the number of agents and
inspectors at the Mexican and Canadian borders and improve security at the nation’s ports.
In making his announcement, Bush came to a metropolitan area where alleged terrorist Mohamed Atta boarded a plane on the first
leg of a journey that culminated in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
“The enemy still wants to hit us, and therefore this nation must do everything in its power to prevent it” Bush said at a technical
college in this Portland suburb as he announced his plan to boost spending on border and port security next year from $8.6 billion to
In an advance look at his budget due to be unveiled on Feb. 4, Bush declared his intention to boost the Immigration and
Naturalization Service (INS) budget by 29 percent in order to improve its ability to keep tabs on “who comes into our country and
who leaves our country.”
Under the president’s proposal, the INS enforcement budget would increase from $4.1 billion to $5.3 billion.
In addition, the Coast Guard, responsible for patrolling the nation’s 95,000 miles of shoreline, would receive what Bush described as
the largest budget increase in its history. His request to Congress for $282 million in new money would increase the Coast Guard’s
budget to $2.9 billion.
“This is a fine group of people, who don’t get nearly as much appreciation from the American people as they should,” he said.
He addressed his remarks to an audience that included many relatives of local Coast Guard members. About 30 Coast Guard
personnel from nearby Portland stood behind the president.
He earlier toured the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Tahoma, which stood guard in New York Harbor after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.
The proposed INS increase would finance the hiring of an additional 350 border patrol agents and inspectors.
He also announced a 36 percent increase in the Customs Service inspections budget, from $1.7 billion to $2.3 billion, to hire 800 new
inspectors and agents as well as to acquire new technology to make their jobs safer.
“It is so important for our nation to work with our friends to the north, Canada, and our friend to the south, Mexico, on border
initiatives,” Bush said. Those initiatives should not “tie up commerce but on the other hand should prevent illegal drugs, terrorists, arms from flowing across our border,” he said.
Noting that four out of 10 of those who are in the United States illegally have overstayed visas, Bush said, “One of the things we
want to make sure of is we find the 40 percent to make sure they’re not part of some al Qaeda network that wants to hit the United
In a briefing, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said that the administration proposal would fund the purchase of more
sophisticated equipment to monitor the flow of people and products across the borders. The plan would include a long sought
computerized entry-exit system for the INS to track the arrival and departure of visitors.
Most of the 350 additional Border Patrol agents would be assigned to the northern border, where enforcement is lighter and scrutiny
has heightened since Sept. 11. Of the 9,000 agents who comprise the Border Patrol, most are assigned to the Mexican border.
It has not been determined where the additional Customs agents would be assigned, an administration spokesman said.
Officials said the increases will help secure the nation’s borders against terrorism and other threats. But they also said that the new
spending would ensure the efficiency of border operations and minimize obstacles to legitimate trade and travel.
Under the president’s proposal, the Department of Agriculture would get an additional $14 million over its current allocation of $47
million for agriculture quarantine inspection programs, a 30 percent increase.
Of the 500 million people admitted into the United States each year, 330 million are non-citizens.
One of the goals of Bush’s initiative is to develop agreements with Canada and Mexico and other major trading partners to develop
extensive pre-screening of low-risk border-crossing traffic. In effect, the screening would be performed before imported goods
crossed into the United States.
As part of this, Tom Ridge, director of the Office of Homeland Security, signed a “Smart Border Declaration” with Canada in
December that officials said will help speed and secure the flow of people and goods between the two nations. Ridge appeared with
Bush in Maine.
Ridge plans to lead a delegation to Mexico during the first week of March to begin discussions aimed at achieving a similar
agreement with Mexico.