“We are highly concerned that these closures will undercut proven methods to intercept drug smugglers, human traffickers and illegal immigrants in corridors that they use extensively north of the U.S.-Mexico border. We urge you in the strongest terms to rescind the decision.”
— 12 Republican Representatives’ response to a June 22 announcement that the U.S. Border Patrol would be closing seven out of the 73 stations it maintains near the U.S.-Mexico border. It came in a July 20 letter [PDF] to the chief of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
CBP explained that closing the stations — all of them more than 100 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border — plus two in Idaho and Montana, would allow it to move 41 agents closer to the northern and southern borders. US$1.3 million would be saved by closing small stations in Abilene, Amarillo, Dallas, Lubbock, San Angelo and San Antonio, Texas; Riverside, California; and (near Canada) Billings, Montana and Twin Falls, Idaho.
A report on the Fox News website contends that the closure will “undercut efforts to intercept drug and human traffickers in well-traveled corridors north of the U.S.-Mexico border.” It adds, “one soon-to-be-shuttered station in Amarillo, Texas, is right in the middle of the I-40 corridor.” Reading the same story further, however, reveals that the Amarillo station presently hosts only two Border Patrol agents to cover this entire “corridor.”
The CBP explanation didn’t satisfy the twelve legislators, either, whose letter to Chief David Aguilar makes a bizarre, unsourced charge using the passive voice.
“Fears have also been expressed that your plan is part of a systematic attempt to dismantle interior enforcement of our immigration laws and give illegal immigrants a ‘free pass’ should they successfully cross the border.”
Here is a map of all 73 of the Border Patrol’s U.S.-Mexico border-sector stations, indicating the seven to be closed with red markers. The map makes clear that CBP is closing some of the stations most distant from the border. The station in Amarillo, in the Texas panhandle, is 418 miles by road from the nearest border port of entry.
(View Border Patrol Sectors and Stations in a larger map)
Here is a chart of the U.S. Border Patrol’s nine sectors along the U.S.-Mexico land border. They are organized according to the number of undocumented migrants apprehended in each during 2011. (Click to enlarge it.)
Apprehensions data from U.S. Border Patrol.
As we hope this chart makes evident, in sectors that are seeing very little migration, CBP is closing a small fraction of stations most distant from the border. U.S. taxpayers will no longer have to pay the cost of maintaining these seven stations.
By Adam Isacson