WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush plans to ask Congress to spend more to crack down on undocumented workers and arrest and deport illegal immigrants. But he wants to fund only a fraction of the new Border Patrol agents called for in a bill he signed last year.
Bush's budget plan will call for spending $23 million, nearly five times the current level, on work site investigations by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a government official familiar with the spending plan told The Associated Press on Tuesday. The money would be used to conduct audits on employers, investigate violations and prepare cases. The administration also wants to increase spending for detentions and deportations of immigrants to $1.2 billion, 18 percent more than in fiscal year 2005, the official said. In addition to paying for more staff, the money would go to apprehending fugitives and providing alternatives to detention for low-risk illegal immigrants awaiting deportation. Homeland Security Department spokesman Dennis Murphy declined to comment on the numbers because the 2006 budget has not been released. He warned figures can change up until it is actually sent to Congress.Bush plans to ask lawmakers to increase the Border Patrol by 210 agents. The intelligence overhaul law he signed last year authorizes, but does not pay for, the department to hire 2,000 agents a year for five years.
That would nearly double the number of agents guarding U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada to almost 21,000 and would be the largest buildup of border guards in the nation's history.
Outgoing Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson, who oversees transportation and border security, has said paying for the 2,000 agents would require a substantial investment from Congress.
"It appears, perhaps, the administration is looking a bit more comprehensively on immigration enforcement. For too long we have focused only on the border, and many people have indeed been calling for renewed attention to the hiring of undocumented workers because that is the primary draw," said Deborah Meyers, a policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington-based think tank that tends to favor immigration.