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Our Opinion: More B.P. a good idea

April 17, 2001

An increase in the federal Immigration and Naturalization Service budget usually means good news for Imperial County.

While few like to see growing federal budgets and the tax increases that must fund those increases, few locally could deny that more INS money coming into this county is a good thing for the Imperial Valley in general. And few could deny that more Border Patrol agents in the El Centro sector is a good thing, too.

President Bush has proposed a generous INS budget that contains $75 million to hire 570 more Border Patrol agents in fiscal 2002, mostly for Southeastern California (meaning, specifically, us), Arizona and Texas.

Our area has become a key entry spot for illegal drugs and undocumented immigrants, and the best way to stop either of those actions is more agents on the front lines. Also helpful in the mission will be the high-tech surveillance system Bush has proposed to fund for the deserts and farm areas of the Imperial Valley.


Not only do agents help rescue people from drowning in our county's canals and dying in our deserts, a bigger presence deters people from crossing into the country illegally in the first place. Either way, lives are saved, and that is a good thing.

The proposed Bush budget also has $6.05 million for the under-construction Border Patrol El Centro sector headquarters and $3 million for upgrades to the INS detention center in El Centro, which has been plagued by security problems in recent years. Such actions make the INS and its agencies, such as the Border Patrol, more efficient and more humane.

And while it may seem crass, more Border Patrol agents and other INS employees working in our Valley means more money coming into the area, because such employees make anywhere from decent wages on up. They are homebuyers and car buyers and consumers in general. All of that means a stronger economy here.

More INS (and Customs) money means more folks working at the border ports of entry, which often means faster transit through the ports. Faster transit means more efficient and better commerce between the United States and Mexico, and also means more people will cross the border to shop in Imperial County.

While many INS/Border Patrol folks complain about being sent to the "middle of nowhere," others grow to love our area and end up staying. Many have become among our best and most valued residents, people who have contributed much to our area.

The best thing for the country would be if massive illegal immigration came to a stop. Until economic conditions improve greatly in Mexico, that is not going to happen.

In the meantime, we need as many border agents here as the country can afford.

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