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Monday, Feb 18 2013 11:00 PM

Sequestration would devastate Border Patrol

By The Bakersfield Californian

The prospect for real bipartisan progress on immigration reform may take a serious hit if sequestration, the automatic cuts scheduled for March 1, take place.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano informed the Senate Appropriations Committee last week the cuts will result in a workforce-hours reduction equivalent to 5,000 Border Patrol agents, or about 25 percent of the workforce. That kind of reduction will almost surely impact current efforts and future plans to secure the U.S. border with Mexico, which happens to be one of the key components of the immigration reform proposal forwarded by a bipartisan panel of senators last month. In fact, those senators are demanding that the border be secure before proceeding with opening paths to U.S. citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants. In other words, no matter which side of the immigration debate you're on, you can't be happy with that kind of hit to the Border Patrol.

But House Republicans have voted to go into a nine-day recess, leaving Congress just four legislative days after that break to avoid the cuts, the Border Patrol being just one casualty. Democrats say Republicans actually want the sequester to go through. We don't know if that's true, but we do know that averting sequestration and its devastating economic implications is critically important, and Congress needs to be in session, not on vacation.

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