For eastern Long Island, a White House budget item that would cut funding for the Coast Guard should be cause for alarm. Fortunately, opposition from members of Congress is bipartisan and loud.
In President Trump’s Office of Management and Budget plan, more than $500 million would be eliminated from Coast Guard funding to help pay for expanding the border wall with Mexico. The cuts would include scrapping a planned state-of-the-art national security cutter and port patrol teams. Faced with the loss, the Coast Guard would have to shift its resources, with a chance that routine operations and search-and-rescue efforts, which are important to recreational boaters and commercial fishing alike, could be hampered.
From an immigration standpoint, the proposed cuts make no sense since, among the Coast Guard’s many jobs is watching for illegal migrants. If an expanded border wall with Mexico is eventually built on land, more people trying to reach the United States will take to the seas — often at great personal risk. This could lead to a humanitarian crisis not unlike that of the Syrian and other refugees making the dangerous passage by water to Europe in which so many people have died.
In addition, those on the East End who have ever called on the Coast Guard for help or just enjoyed the reassurance that its expertly trained personnel were always at the ready should insist that it not fall victim to the president’s wrongheaded budget priorities.