The Obama administration has announced plans to close nine Border Patrol stations across four states, including Texas, California, Montana and Idaho, CNN reports.
According to a statement from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the closures are part of a broader plan to reallocate resources to high-priority areas in a bid to increase efficiency. The move will also relocate 41 Border Patrol officers closer to the northern and southern border.
"These deactivations are consistent with the strategic goal of securing America's borders, and our objective of increasing and sustaining the certainty of arrest of those trying to enter our country illegally," CBP spokesman Bill Brooks said in a statement. "By redeploying and reallocating resources at or near the border, CBP will maximize the effectiveness of its enforcement mandate and align our investments with our mission."
The stations to be shut down in roughly six months are located in the following cities:
- Abilene, Texas
- San Angelo, Texas
- Riverside, Calif.
- Dallas, Texas
- San Antonio, Texas
- Lubbock, Texas
- Amarillo, Texas
- Twin Falls, Idaho
- Billings, Montana
But the move is already causing panic among local law enforcement agencies, Border Patrol agents and members of Congress, FoxNews.com reports:
Critics of the move warn the closures will undercut efforts to intercept drug and human traffickers in well-traveled corridors north of the U.S.-Mexico border. Though the affected stations are scattered throughout northern and central Texas, and three other states, the coverage areas still see plenty of illegal immigrant activity -- one soon-to-be-shuttered station in Amarillo, Texas, is right in the middle of the I-40 corridor; another in Riverside, Calif., is outside Los Angeles.
But at least one Border Patrol supervisor in Texas has called on local officers to "voice your concerns" to elected officials, warning that the "deactivation" will remove agents from the Texas Panhandle, among other places. Several members of Congress have asked Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher to reconsider the plan. And local officials are getting worried about what will happen once the Border Patrol leaves town, since they rely on those federal officials to assist in making immigration arrests.
"It could impact us tremendously since we've only got two agents up here now for 26 counties," Potter County Sheriff Brian Thomas told FoxNews.com.
Potter County, in the Texas Panhandle, would be affected by the planned closure of the Amarillo station.
Thomas said that while his area is far from the border, it's still a major "corridor" for illegal immigrants -- and he said his office depends on Border Patrol to respond to their calls.
"I can't hold a carload of people out there on I-40 for eight hours while somebody comes from El Paso," he said. "I mean, that's just crazy."
Border Patrol's resident agent in charge in Amarillo expressed similar worries, in a recent memo to local law enforcement alerting them to the planned closure. The official, Robert Green, warned that the "entire complement" of two agents would be reassigned from Amarillo to somewhere closer to the border. He said "there is no active plan" right now for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to fill the void on assisting local officials with stops.
Further, the Federation for American Immigration Reform said the interior stations set to be shut down serve as a "second line of defense" in apprehending illegal aliens and drug smugglers who make it across the border and into heavily traveled corridors in America.
"It's part of the systematic dismantling of both border and interior enforcement," FAIR Communications Director Bob Dane told FoxNews.com. "It complements the non-enforcement policy of this administration."
CNN reports the government will be able to save $1.3 million a year by closing the nine stations.
It isn't certain whether the decision is related to the Obama administration's continued claims that the U.S. border is more secure than it ever has been and apprehensions of illegal aliens are at their lowest levels since the 1970s.
Some lawmakers are also already up in arms over the decision.
Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), who represents Amarillo, and two other state lawmakers who represent affected districts in a letter asked the Border Patrol chief to "reconsider the proposal," Fox News reports.
Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas) in a written statement said:
The Department of Homeland Security hasn't demonstrated that sending additional resources to the border will be a more efficient use of resources than maintaining a presence further north... I'd like to see numbers that reassure me that this strategy change won't ultimately result in fewer arrests.
The move comes shortly after President Obama announced his new immigration policy that halts the deportation of young illegal immigrations who came to the U.S. as children and who are not criminals. Then, the Supreme Court dealt another blow to advocates of stricter immigration enforcement and threw out parts of Arizona's controversial immigration law.
And shortly after that, the Obama administration also announced a unilateral decision to end program 287(g), which allowed local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration law without the feds. Immigration and Customs Enforcement are now ordered to be selective in responding to calls from the border and may only respond if the illegal immigration has committed a felony.