Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-Clarendon) met with Texas law enforcement officials yesterday to discuss the proposed U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) station closures in Amarillo, Lubbock, San Angelo, and Abilene. Officials from about a dozen local law enforcement agencies took part in the meeting to voice their concerns over the proposed closures and to provide insight on how to ensure there is realistic coordination to fill any gaps in federal enforcement responsibilities for immigration.
"We have been able to at least slow the closures of these Border Patrol stations and are still pushing for clear answers to many questions that have not been answered--things like, 'does this make sense from a budget standpoint or from a security and law enforcement point of view?'," said Rep. Thornberry. "We are also pressing for Border Patrol's plan as to how they will fill the gap in federal responsibilities that these closures will create. Local law enforcement personnel, including the officials I met with yesterday and others across Texas, are on the front line enforcing our laws and keeping us safe. The federal government must back them up and give them the support they need," Thornberry continued.
Earlier this year, Border Patrol officials announced a plan to close nine interior Border Patrol stations, six of which are located in Texas. The station closures in Texas include the offices in San Angelo, Abilene, Dallas, San Antonio, Lubbock, and Amarillo. Law enforcement officials believe that if federal agents from CBP or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are unable to respond to the scene of illegal alien apprehensions in the future then they may be forced to release the individuals.
"The Supreme Court recently ruled that immigration enforcement can only be carried out by federal agents, and that means that those federal agencies responsible for such enforcement cannot leave our police and sheriff's departments without the resources necessary to address the problem," said Thornberry. "Together, we are going to keep the pressure on CBP and ICE to provide us with a viable plan of how immigration enforcement will be dealt with if the stations are closed," he continued.
Due to serious budget shortfalls and legislative obstacles, it is unlikely that Congress will be able to prevent the station closures indefinitely. However, Thornberry's office has been working with other members of the Texas congressional delegation and local law enforcement from the 13th District --including sheriffs, police, prosecutors, elected officials, and others--to press CBP and ICE to come up with such a plan since the possible station closures were first announced in July.
"What's here (now) works well. These two Border Patrol agents can't do as much good on the border as they do here," said Randall County Sheriff Joel Richardson.
CBP has said it is closing the stations in order to reassign agents to high-priority areas closer to the border. Officials stated that they estimate a budget savings of $1.3 million a year when the nine posts are closed. However, they also indicated the proposal could result in a cost of $2.47 million in Fiscal Year 2013 alone. Thornberry has previously rejected such estimates as "penny-wise and pound-foolish."
The CBP presented a broad overview of the closures in July, but have yet to detail how local law enforcement agencies could deal with immigration enforcement in the affected areas without the assistance of CBP or ICE agents. Aside from planned closings in Texas, there are also proposed closings in Billings, Montana; Twin Falls, Idaho; and Riverside, California. The closures have been delayed by Congress till March of next year.