In Texas, Border Patrol Agents are among those affected by Washington’s across-the-board budget cuts known as the “sequester”. The men and women guarding the more than 12 hundred miles of Texas’ border say that brings good news and bad news at a time when illegal border crossings from Mexico are slightly up.
Sequester-related furloughs for border patrol agents start next month. Meaning, there will be fewer agents at the border at any given time and agents will not get paid for the fourteen days they are furloughed.
Immigrations and Customs Enforcement or ICE has also had to tighten its belt. Last month, ICE released hundreds of undocumented immigrants from custody as a way to save money.
Shawn Moran with the National Border Patrol Council, a union of border patrol agents, says word of those releases is spreading like wildfire south of the border. “Apparently they are hearing that there’s less border patrol agents due to sequestration,” Moran says, “and also that ICE is not detaining anyone; that they are releasing everyone. And in McAllen, Texas, we’ve seen a huge spike in the number of illegal aliens that are being caught.”
But beyond seeing the number of detentions almost double from this January to February, when ICE released the immigrants, Moran says something unusual started to take place. Moran said immigrants “are being encouraged by the smugglers and other illegals to surrender. They’re not running from us.”
The thinking with those crossing the border seems to be: Why run when being caught by Border Patrol may lead to release within U.S. borders?
Bill Brooks is a spokesperson with the Border Patrol. He says the rules haven’t changed.
“We will continue and have continued to do our job to protect America,” Brooks says. "If someone approaches us and have entered the country illegally, then, we will accept that. We will process them, the way we normally would and will treat them with dignity and respect.”
The National Border Patrol Council’s Moran says there is an upside for agents in the field. “If people are not running away from us and they are peacefully surrendering, it makes it that much easier for a Border Patrol agent.” Moran says this new trend is puzzling. “Rarely do we have people that don’t run. The risk of injury definitely goes down, and that’s on both sides.”
According to Border Patrol statistics illegal entries are still about a tenth of what they were in 2000.