Pubdate: Fri, 18 Jan 2002
Source: Corpus Christi Caller-Times (TX)
Copyright: 2002 Corpus Christi Caller-Times


Federal Budget Failed To Provide The Money To Pay For Them

EL PASO - Texas National Guard troops sent to help U.S. Customs handle 
heightened security on the border have been pulled back after a new federal 
budget failed to provide the money to pay for them.

In December, it cost $216,000 in travel, per diems and base pay to keep the 
30 troops stationed along the Mexican border, spokeswoman Anna Maria Wagner 
said Thursday.

The money wasn't included in an appropriations bill signed last week by 
President Bush, and troops were pulled Sunday.

Left on the border are 65 National Guard troops as part of the guard's 
Cargo and Mail Inspection mission, Wagner said.

Those troops have been assisting border agents since 1989.

"They've always been a great asset," said Customs spokesman Roger Maier.

He said it is hard to predict whether losing some troops will increase 
waiting times at the border because customs has added inspection stations 
and travelers have adjusted their routines.

Maier said the guard troops perform behind-the-scenes work such as tearing 
down vehicle compartments believed to conceal drugs and inspections of 
vehicles held in cargo lots.

In Texas, Wagner said, the troops who were pulled were sent to the border 
in early December as a response to Gov. Perry's request to get individuals 
on the border for the holidays.

With the heightened security, border officials have been making more drug 

Between October and December, El Paso area Customs officers seized 86,603 
pounds of marijuana, cocaine and heroin.

During the same period in 2000, officials seized 47,910 pounds of illegal drugs.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Beth