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President George W. Bush
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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

David Aguilar
Chief, Office of Border Patrol
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
June 8, 2006

David Aguilar
Good afternoon. My name is David Aguilar, and I am the Chief of the U.S. Border Patrol, a component of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). I am honored to represent CBP and the Border Patrol. CBP remains steadfast in its commitment to securing our borders- it is a matter of national security. Through efforts like the Secure Border Initiative, the Arizona Border Control Initiative, and the deployment of National Guard resources to the border, we are consistently minimizing and shutting down vulnerabilities at the border.

I would like to begin by giving you a brief overview of our agency and mission.

CBP acts as the guardian of the Nation’s borders, safeguarding the homeland by protecting the American public against terrorists and the instruments of terrorism, while enforcing the laws of the United States and fostering the Nation’s economic security through lawful travel and trade. Within CBP’s larger mission, the Border Patrol's time-honored duty of interdicting illegal aliens and drugs and those who attempt to smuggle them across our borders between the Ports of Entry remains a priority. We are concerned that terrorists and violent criminals may exploit smuggling routes to enter the United States illegally. The nexus between our post September 11th mission and our traditional role is clear, terrorists and violent criminals may exploit smuggling routes used by migrants to enter the United States illegally and do us harm. Reducing illegal entries across our borders is more than ever a matter of national security.

With regard to CBP, the Border Patrol’s National Strategy has made a centralized chain of command a priority and has increased the effectiveness of our agents by using intelligence-driven operations to deploy our resources. The Strategy recognizes that border awareness and cooperation with our law enforcement partners is critical. Partnerships with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Department of the Interior, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Department of Transportation, as well as other interagency partners, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies and state Homeland Security offices play a vital role in collecting and disseminating information and tactical intelligence that assists in a quick and flexible responses, which are essential to mission success.

Joe, from Pasadena writes:
Chief, what efforts are being taken along our northern border in light of the recent terrorist-ring bust in Canada? Thanks for your service

David Aguilar
The northern border is a different environment than the southern border. Because the northern border area is so vast, we have focused on the strategic deployment of resources and partnership efforts with other enforcement entities. We have more than tripled the number of agents assigned to the northern border since 2001. In response to the terrorist incident in Canada, the Border Patrol initiated enhanced intelligence gathering and information exchange with all sources to include state, local, federal, and Canadian partners. Each of the northern border Sector Chiefs In Detroit, Buffalo and Swanton Sectors have been working closely with their counterparts within DHS-Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the CBP Office of Field Operations and Air and Marine to coordinate operations. Through the engagement of Integrated Border Enforcement Teams (IBET) in Ottowa, Canada, intelligence flow and critical updates have been prioritized. Databases have been updated to give agents access to information to properly screen aliens that they encounter.

All shift personnel in Northern Border Sectors, Detroit, Michigan; Buffalo, New York; and Swanton, Vermont were notified and fully briefed as part of an effort to increase awareness of the situation at the field agent level. All of these efforts are ongoing.

Roger, from Salem Oregon writes:
What would you do as director of the border partol to help stop the flow of illegal persons coming into our country.Since your departmentknows what is best,can capital hill give you the support you need without messing things up again

David Aguilar
The Border Patrol is responsible for securing the borders of our nation between the ports of entry; a responsibility that we take very seriously. As you indicated, the Border Patrol does have plans in place for gaining operational control of the border, which is the cornerstone of our National Border Patrol Strategy, and requires the deployment of personnel, tactical infrastructure, and technology to the areas of the border most needed first.

DHS, Congress, and this Administration are focused on border security and will continue to assess, develop, and deploy the appropriate mix of technology, personnel, and infrastructure to gain, maintain, and expand coverage of the border in an effort to use our resources in the most efficient fashion. As an example, the use of technology, including the expansion of camera systems, biometrics, sensors, air assets, and improving communications systems can provide the force multiplier that the Border Patrol needs to be more effective. Tactical infrastructure improvements will greatly assist DHS' ability to deter and respond to illegal activity crossing our border. Examples of tactical infrastructure include: strategically placed fencing, vehicle barriers, all-weather access roads, land clearings, and bridge-crossings.

A strategy can only be effective if supported and funded, and that funding and support has been forthcoming.

David, from waco, texas writes:
We as Americans want a impenetratable walled border with that is enforced by the Military, if we have to change an existing law, then change it, but first we want this Barrier to the "crossing" from Mexico....Why can't we do this first...? .thanks dr

David Aguilar
The deployment of tactical infrastructure to the border is critical to border security. But experience, and the expertise we have gained over the years, shows us that fencing alone is not a suitable solution to border security. Although “barriers” are effective in some locations, they are only one part of the Border Patrol’s national strategy. The proper mix of appropriately placed technology, tactical infrastructure and personnel requires that we assess each area of the border and deploy resources that will be most effective, while considering the concerns of our citizens and environment.

Jeff, from Ely, Nevada writes:
How will the Border Patrol be affected by the addition of the National Guard to the Mexican Border?

David Aguilar
The DHS and CBP remain steadfast in our commitment to gain control of our borders, and the recent announcements by the President and deployments of National Guard to the southwest border will move us rapidly forward on that commitment. Let me first state that National Guard support of and coordination with DHS and the Border Patrol is nothing new. While this new infusion will be on a larger scale, the Border Patrol has a history of nearly two decades working with National Guard units to utilize their unique expertise, manpower, technology and assets in support of our mission and as a force multiplier. Today there are currently hundreds of National Guard troops assisting DHS, primarily in our counter narcotics mission.

Cliff, from Brimfield, Ohio writes:
Chief Aguilar: With the addition of the National Guard. Will this permit you to use your men in areas that you didn't quite have the manpower to do before or spend more manpower on critical area's. Thank You

David Aguilar
With the addition of National Guardsmen, over 500 Border Patrol Agents who are currently working in clerical, transportation, and logistics jobs will return to the front lines to assist in the detection and apprehension of illegal aliens.

Additionally, under the President’s plan, the Border Patrol will hire and train an additional 6,000 Border Patrol Agents during 2007 and 2008. This will bring the total number of Border Patrol Agents to over 18,000, a 101 percent increase since the President took office in 2001.

John, from Sherwood, AR writes:
Why does the Federal Government not enforce the immigration laws on the books instead of insisting that we need "immigration reform"?

David Aguilar
The Department of Homeland Security is committed to enforcing the immigration laws on the books and accomplishing its many missions. DHS, Congress and this Administration have been working hard to secure the borders of our nation, eliminate the practice of "catch and release" while facilitating free trade and travel, and assist those eligible to becoming lawful permanent residents and citizens obtain those benefits.

Keep in mind that the immigration problem that exists in this country today, did not occur overnight. But as attention is focused on the border and as funding deployed to support border security, the Department becomes better able to enforce current immigration laws that are on the books.

Clere, from Raleigh, NC writes:
Why does the Security Border Initiative expediated removal process exclude Mexicans? Why is it for OTM, "other than Mexican"?

David Aguilar
A key element of the Border Patrol’s ongoing efforts to deter illegal entry was the implementation and expansion of Expedited Removal to all Border Patrol Sectors. It is a removal process, which requires the mandatory detention of select classes of illegal migrants who can be removed from the U. S. without recourse to an Immigration Hearing. This class includes aliens who are present in the U.S. without having been admitted or paroled following inspection by an immigration officer at a designated POE, who are encountered by an immigration officer within 100 air miles of the U.S. border, and who are unable to establish their physical presence in the U.S. for the two-week period prior to the date of encounter.

ER does not exclude Mexican nationals who meet all of the conditions above.

Kim, from Kentucky writes:
Hi David, Do border patrol officers experience much danger in their line of work? What type of measures are in place to help them operate as safely as possible?

David Aguilar
The work of a Border Patrol Agent is inherently dangerous. Since the inception of the Border Patrol in 1924, 98 Border Patrol Agents have lost their lives in the line of duty. Many more agents have been seriously injured over the years.

Border Patrol Agents work in an outdoor environment and are susceptible to outdoor injuries; heat exhaustion, snakebites, and even frost bite. Border Patrol Agents are law enforcement officers and suffer from many of the stress related injuries typical for law enforcement officers. Those are the dangers that Border Patrol agents face during normal course of business.

Of major concern to all of us at DHS, is that as we continue to bring larger areas of the border under operational control, spikes in border violence directed against our agents are occurring. As border criminals discover they can no longer operate with impunity and are prevented from using the border for their criminal activities, the violence directed against our agents has increased. This violence includes physical assaults on agents, rocking assaults, vehicle assaults, and shooting incidents. In FY 2005, there were 778 assaults on agents, 108% increase over FY 2004. In FY 2006 to date, there have been 526 assaults.

Our agents are trained, equipped, and instructed on how to handle border violence. The Border Patrol makes a substantial investment in the training of new agents by requiring a basic training program that includes physical training and firearms training programs that are among the best and most demanding in the nation. We encourage our agents to remain physically fit and maintain proficiency in all areas of instruction. We have upgraded our body armor and firearms, included protection devices on many of our vehicles. In addition, we have provided our agents with non-lethal means to give our agents an array of choices to appropriately respond to potential acts of violence.

Once the border is truly secured, it will be a much safer place for Border Patrol Agents, the public, and even those attempting to cross illegally.

David Aguilar
The Border Patrol’s objective is nothing less than securing operational control of the border. We recognize the challenges that lie ahead. Our national strategy gives us the overall framework to achieve our ambitious goal and with the assistance of the National Guard, our DHS law enforcement officials charged with border control will be able to more effectively and efficiently protect our Nation’s borders between our ports of entry.

The men and women of the Border Patrol face these challenges every day with vigilance, dedication to service, and integrity as we work to strengthen national security and protect America and its citizens. I would like to thank you for the opportunity to answer your questions today.

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