Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Group rips Bush gag on border surveys

Billy House:

A White House-approved gag order was imposed on U.S. Border Patrol agents regarding information that President Bush's "temporary guest worker" proposal inspired more illegal border crossings from Mexico, a group charged Tuesday .

The non-profit conservative Judicial Watch said it had acquired and analyzed government documents showing that in the weeks after Bush announced his proposal on Jan. 7, 2004, as many as 45 percent of those caught arriving illegally from Mexico told agents they believed Bush was offering an amnesty program.

But Bush had made no such offer, or fleshed out details of a guest-worker program.

Even so, Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton said, "On the very day of the president's speech, the Border Patrol initiated a survey of apprehended illegal immigrants to determine if the president's proposal was influencing their decision to cross the border."

Just three weeks after the survey, "the Bush administration abruptly shut it down," Fitton said. No report was ever issued on it, and "the Border Patrol, at the behest of the White House, instructed its agents not to provide public information about the aborted survey or its findings," Fitton said.

White House spokesman Taylor Gross referred questions about Judicial Watch's claims to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Leah Yoon, an agency spokeswoman, said such claims are "absurd."

She acknowledged that Border Patrol agents collected survey data from undocumented immigrants in early 2004. But she said the findings were "inconclusive." The survey was ended when word of it was leaked to a reporter before completion.

Fitton said his group analyzed more than 1,000 documents from the Department of Homeland Security, obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request, and then a lawsuit in June 2004.

Included in those documents, he said, 850 of a total of 1,700 known immigrant surveys showed that about 45 percent of migrants caught by the Border Patrol said they crossed the border illegally based on rumors of a Bush amnesty program. About 63 percent said they had some Mexican government or media information supporting the notion of such a program.

Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., who appeared with Fitton Tuesday, said the documents show that "the administration is playing politics with border security data." He say he has demanded an investigation.

Bush "Temporary Worker Proposal" Caused Increase in Illegal Immigrant Crossings, New Docs Show

U.S. Border Patrol Survey Analysis

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