9OYS Border Watch
Sequester's impact on border security
Rep. Barber calls funding cuts a "major setback" to securing U.S.-Mexican border
Reporter: Justin Schecker
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Only two days are left until billions of automatic federal spending cuts go into effect. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has warned these cuts will be a major hit to the federal agencies responsible for securing the U.S.-Mexican border.
Congressman Ron Barber says sequestration will cause a "major setback" to border security.
The border security budget stands to lose more than $750 million dollars, Barber said at a press conference Friday.
In addition to an agency-wide hiring freeze, U.S. Customs and Border Protection will furlough employees up to 14 days.
Border Patrol agents are facing substantial pay cuts and the reduction of training and overtime hours.
Art Del Cueto, the president of the Tucson chapter of the Border Patrol union, says these cuts would mean fewer agents on duty to keep the border safe.
"I know a lot of us feel the border is secure," Del Cueto said at the Barber press conference. "There are a lot of areas that are not secure and cutting down on this is going to set us back years, not just months."
It is no secret that Southern Arizona is at the center of narcotics smuggling from Mexico into the United States.
Tucson Police assistant chief Brett Klein said the looming budget cuts in Washington will hurt collaborative law enforcement operations to seize drugs and keep them from crossing the border.
"It goes directly at these drug operations and cripples their ability to continue their distribution efforts and the crime and violent crime that's associated with these," Klein said.
The sequester will also affect legal travel across the border by increasing wait times at ports of entry such as in Nogales and Douglas, Barber said.
Barber and Sen. John McCain both say across the board mandatory spending cuts are not the way to balance a budget.