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First step: secure our southern border

Wed, Jun 12, 2013

As the immigration reform bill headed out of the Senate Judiciary. Committee before the Memorial Day recess, one senator expressed a sense of déjà vu.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) commented in a press release on his website that he favored a similar bill passed in 1986, which provided amnesty for illegal immigrants.

“And, today, we’re right back at the same place, talking about the same problems, and proposing the same solutions,” Grassley wrote. “No one disputes that this bill is legalization first, enforcement later.”

Grassley said that he believed the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” senators who drafted the legislation are sincere in their intentions. But he also wrote that the bill does not increase the government’s ability to stem future illegal immigration.

U.S. Sen Jeff Flake (R-AZ) is a member of the “Gang of Eight” who says that immigration reform has failed in the past because the public does not trust the federal government to properly address border security. However, Flake wrote an op ed for the Arizona Republic newspaper that said the U.S. has a model of border security in one of two sectors in his state.

“In the Yuma Sector, spanning 126 miles of the border, we have operational control, meaning that if someone attempts to cross the border, there’s a reasonable expectation they will be apprehended.”
However, Flake admitted, in the Tucson sector, which is responsible for 262 miles of the border, “we have nothing close to operational control.”

The immigration bill so far proposes to appropriate $3 billion to implement a “Comprehensive Southern Border Security Strategy” that would increase surveillance and Border Patrol Agents along the nine sectors there. The goal is 90 percent border security, mathematically described in terms of immigrant turnbacks, apprehensions and “gotaways.” The legislation also calls for an extra $1.5 billion for more fencing and infrastructure along the Southern border and 3,500 more customs agents. There are now 18,500 Border Patrol agents in the Southern sectors alone.

The other 11 sectors on the Canadian border and Florida are not addressed in the bill.
The Department of Homeland Security reported in 2011 that it had met is goals of securing the borders through a decrease in apprehensions: down 68 percent in the Tucson sector alone between 2006 and 2011. The Border Patrol could take only partial credit, however.

The recessionary U.S. economy was also a factor, according to a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a human rights and social justice agency, further studied the GAO report. WOLA concluded that while border “effectiveness rates” are high now, the additional $4.5 billion from the proposed legislation would bring new surveillance equipment that would show many more immigrants who have eluded the Border Patrol.

Securing the borders is too big a problem to correct before immigration reform can begin, WOLA said. “To achieve a 90 percent effectiveness rate, authorities would need to capture, or chase back to Mexican territory, 90 percent of all migrants they detect. We believe that this target of a 90 percent “effectiveness rate” in “high risk border sectors” is likely to go unmet.”

In Tucson, for example, the effectiveness rate in 2011 was 86.9 percent, with 124,363 apprehensions, 43,539 “turn-backs” and 25,376 “got-aways.”

Conversely, in 2011 San Diego had a 91.9 effectiveness rate: 42,389 apprehensions; 8,992 “turn-backs” and 4,553 “got-aways.”

The Rio Grande Valley of Texas had that year’s worst effectiveness rate, at just 70.8 percent: 59,450 apprehensions, 27,418 “turn-backs” and 35,759 “got-aways.”

As of 2012, the United States Border Patrol employs 18,516 Border Patrol Agents to patrol the 1,991 mile-stretch of the US-Mexico border.



San Diego Sector
Area: 60 land border miles, 114 coastal miles
Number of stations: 8
Apprehensions 2011: 42,389
Estimated got aways 2011: 4,553

El Centro
Area: 70 land border miles
Number of stations: 4
Apprehensions 2011: 30,172
Estimated got aways 2011: 3,612

Area: 126 land border miles
Number of stations: 3
Apprehensions 2011: 4,861
Estimated got aways 2011: 409

Area: 260 land border miles
Number of stations: 8
Apprehensions 2011: 124,363
Estimated got aways 2011: 25,376

El Paso
Area: 268 border miles (land and river)
Number of stations: 11
Apprehensions 2011: 9,994
Estimated got aways 2011: 1,010

Big Bend
Area: 510 land border miles
Number of stations: 10
Apprehensions 2011: 4,027
Estimated got aways 2011: 2,071

Del Rio
Area: 210 border miles (river border)
Number of stations: 9
Apprehensions 2011: 16,661
Estimated got aways 2011: 3,228

Area: 171 border miles (river border)
Number of stations: 9
Apprehensions 2011: 35,201
Estimated got aways 2011: 9,449

Rio Grande Valley
Area: 316 border miles (river and coastal border)
Number of stations: 9
Apprehensions 2011: 59,450
Estimated got aways 2011: 35,759

By Torey Darin
StreetWise Editorial Intern


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