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Local Customs and Border Patrol in Limbo

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Amarillo, TX - Federal sequestration has impacted a broad swath of public sectors, including post offices, airports, and even public schools - but some say the line should be drawn at national security.

In a story NewsChannel 10's Angelina Perez first brought to you in July, Congress proposed closing nine U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Offices, six of which are in Texas, including those in Lubbock and Amarillo.

Local representative Mac Thornberry pushed Congress to reconsider in a July 10th letter to the White House (see associated link) on grounds that the offices were vital to ensuring public safety.

Mister Thornberry met this morning (Oct. 18) with about a dozen area sheriffs to discuss the potential impact of losing the offices and consider any alternatives.

The consensus of those in attendance was that losing the two offices would have a tremendous detrimental impact on the area, as Thornberry said,

"Without the Border Patrol folks, I think there would be of course, more people in the region illegally, but most concerning is there would be more criminals in the region.  There are people who come here just to earn a living, and we understand that.  But there are also people who come here to traffic in drugs, to traffic in people, and commit other even more serious crimes.  Border Patrol helps stop those people, helps find those people."

Because several major highways run through Amarillo, including I-40 and I-27, the sheer volume of illegal immigrants arrested is surprising, but many times, local law enforcement often does not have the resources or authority to prosecute them, as Amarillo Police Chief Robert Taylor says,

"We do arrest quite a few illegal aliens for criminal violations.  Some of those are pretty minor, and minor things that they get arrested for normally are dropped by the prosecuting attorneys, because they know they're illegal aliens and they'll be deported by Border Patrol.  But if Border Patrol's not there to take care of them, they'll just be released back into the community."

The current proposal would incorporate the Amarillo and Lubbock branches into El Paso's jurisdiction, which Potter County Sheriff Brian Thomas says is unrealistic, saying,

"We will fall under the Big Bend office, which is actually out of El Paso.  Well, I can't wait six hours and hold you on the side of the road until somebody from El Paso gets here.  It's a huge dilemma.  We have two agents here now, and if we do away with the two that we have, what are we going to do?"

As it stands now, Congress will not make a definitive decision to close any offices until the 2013 budget is finalized.  In the meantime, the federal government is operating under a continuing resolution until March 27th.

For more information on Customs and Border Patrol or immigration and enforcement statistics, follow the links attached to this story.

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