Burritos at the Border

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Of the millions of illegal aliens who enter the country through the southern border every year, hundreds of thousands are caught and detained by immigration and customs officials. That's a lot of mouths to feed. In fiscal year 2005, Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) alone spent $2.6 million on food for detainees along the southern border. This year, with $1.7 million already spent since Oct. 1, the CBP is on track to double that amount. The figures are line items in CBP's budget and the total dollar amount spent on food is likely much higher, says a CBP official, since some of the sector stations use part of their operating budgets to feed migrants and Immigration and Customs Enforcement also provides meals to illegal aliens in long-term detention.

For eight border patrol stations along the Texas-Mexico border, Customs and Border Patrol last month published an open request for bids from contractors who could provide 9,000 frozen beef and bean burritos per month to feed detained aliens. The request, found on the Federal Business Opportunities website under the title "Alien meals for Del Rio border patrol section," asks for boxes of five-ounce beef and bean burritos, individually wrapped and frozen to be delivered at least twice a month. The Eagle Pass border station, located on the banks of the Rio Grande, has the highest demand in the request, with an average consumption of 4,300 burritos per month. Providing water, juice, crackers and even burritos is "part of a detention standard" says CBP spokeswoman Leah Yoon. The request, says Yoon, is part of the CBP's response to the humanitarian needs of hungry and dehydrated migrants found crossing into the U.S. Why burritos? "They're often arriving into the U.S. not having eaten for days," says Yoon, "We're being sensitive to where they are coming from."

With reporting by Timothy J. Burger