Bush Unveils Plan To
Secure Vast US Borders

By Adam Entous

(Reuters) - Saying "we're looking, we're listening," President Bush on Friday proposed spending an extra $2.1 billion to secure U.S. borders and keep out foreigners who might try to launch attacks like those on Sept. 11.
The money, which Bush will seek in the budget he sends to Congress on Feb. 4, would be used to hire more border patrol agents, safeguard ports and track foreign nationals without disrupting trade with neighboring Canada and Mexico.
Three of the 19 hijackers in the Sept. 11 attacks that killed more than 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania were discovered to have been living in the United States illegally on expired visas.
Previewing next week's State of the Union address, Bush also put Americans on notice that the war on terrorism, launched after the Sept. 11 attacks, was far from over. He called Afghanistan "the first theater" but did not say where the United States might strike next.
"We're looking, we're listening, we're following every single lead," Bush said against the backdrop of Portland's harbor about 120 miles from the Canadian border.
Two of the Sept. 11 hijackers, Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari, stayed overnight in Portland before flying to Boston to catch American Airlines Flight 11 which they flew into the World Trade Center. Bush did not mention them in his speech.
The bulk of Bush's proposed spending increase for border security -- $1.2 billion -- would go to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to help it more than double its border patrol agents and inspectors.
Bush said the Coast Guard, which he hailed for its swift response to the September attacks, would receive the largest budget increase in its more than 200-year history.
The Customs Service and an Agriculture Department inspection program will also receive large increases in funding as part of Bush's proposed $10.7 billion budget for securing the nation's borders with Canada and Mexico.
"We're analyzing every aspect of the border and making sure that the effort is seamless, that the communication is real (and) that the enforcement is strong," Bush said.
Caught off guard by the September attacks, Bush has vowed to spend what it takes to defeat global terrorism and protect Americans, helping to push the federal budget into deficits at the expense of other spending priorities in a congressional election year.
He already has announced plans to boost military spending by $48 billion, the biggest rise in two decades and proposed almost doubling spending on homeland security to $37.7 billion in 2003 to protect Americans from future terrorist attacks.
"The price of victory is well worth it," Bush said.
But in seeking to secure the country's borders, the administration faces what may be an impossible task: screening out would-be attackers without slowing down the roughly 500 million people, 11.2 million trucks and 2.2 million railway cars that cross into the country each year.
The United States and Canada have already signed an agreement to tighten security by developing permanent resident cards and a joint immigration database. U.S. officials fear the 5,500 mile border between the United States and Canada could be exploited by the al Qaeda network of Osama bin Laden, accused of masterminding the Sept. 11 attacks.
A similar border security pact is in the works with Mexico. A team of U.S. officials led by Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge will visit Mexico in early March to discuss immigration, trade and border security issues.
"It is so important for our nations to work with our friend to the north, Canada, and our friend to the south, Mexico, on border initiatives" to prevent "illegal drugs, terrorists, arms from flowing across our border," he said.
Under Bush's border security plan, the INS's budget for enforcement will increase by $1.2 billion to $5.3 billion in fiscal 2003. Bush said the goal was to ensure INS agents "know who comes in our country and who leaves our country" and to "make sure that they're not part of some al Qaeda network that wants to hit the United States."
Bush also called for boosting the Coast Guard's budget for homeland security by $282 million to $2.9 billion to help it shoulder its expanded role in protecting ports as well as key coastal sites like oil refineries and power plants.
The president proposed raising the Customs Service's inspection budget by $619 million to $2.3 billion to hire 800 new agents and buy high-tech equipment to inspect shipments.
The smallest item in Bush's proposal is a $14 million increase in the Agriculture Department's quarantine inspection program. The new money would allow the department to deploy more inspectors and X-Ray machines to screen people entering by land as well as more inspectors and dog teams to check high-risk cargo.

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