Border More Secure than Ever: Now What?

san diego border fenceA new report on border security issued by Center for American Progress adds yet more evidence to the argument that the U.S. government is already doing plenty about border security. Brick by Brick: A Half-Decade of Immigration Enforcement and the Need for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, written by Former DHS Assistant Secretary for Border and Transportation Security Policy Stewart Verdery, details the range of programs that have been implemented in the last five years and their impact on the border. The report cautions, however, that securing the border is an elusive goal, and without comprehensive immigration reform, we will never achieve the real objectives needed to end illegal immigration.

In a panel discussion highlighting the report, Verdery and others made it clear that “securing the border first” is an empty demand because the border is more secure than ever, immigration enforcement has increased dramatically, and comprehensive immigration reform is needed now. It is also clear that restrictionists and others on the “enforcement first” bandwagon have not been paying attention.

Verdery and fellow panelist DHS Principal Deputy General Counsel David Martin pointed out that the federal government has spent billions of dollars on border and interior enforcement over the last several years, and that “the enforcement capabilities and resources now available to law enforcement are considerably stronger than during the intense debates of the last decade.”

The failed 2007 comprehensive immigration reform bill included enforcement “benchmarks” that DHS would have to reach before other elements of the bill could be enacted. These benchmarks included:

  • Establishing operational control of the Mexican border
  • Expanding Border Patrol staffing
  • Constructing strong physical and electronic border barriers
  • Implementing a “catch and return” policy
  • Deploying workplace enforcement tools

Verdery and the other panelists systematically listed all of the enforcement enhancements that have been put in place since then and demonstrated that all of these benchmarks have been met.

  • The Secretary of DHS has established and demonstrated operational control; CBP’s budget and personnel has increased; apprehensions along the border have decreased.
  • The Border Patrol has 20,000 full-time agents.
  • At least 300 miles of vehicle barriers, 370 miles of fencing, and 105 ground-based radar and camera towers have been installed, and four unmanned aerial vehicles are in operation.
  • DHS is detaining all removable immigrants apprehended at the border, except in certain humanitarian circumstances.
  • The E-Verify system has grown exponentially, and employer audits have led to 2,069 audits targeting employers for hiring unauthorized workers.

Verdery also pointed to US-VISIT, the 287(g) conference, the Visa Security Program, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) and other enforcement initiatives that have expanded DHS’s immigration enforcement efforts and resources in the years since CIR failed.

The panelists concluded that it is imperative that we move forward with CIR; there are no more excuses. Panelist Ted Alden of the Council on Foreign Relations stated that “reform is being held hostage to an idea of border security that isn’t defined.” Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano has said that those opposed to CIR keep “moving the goalposts.” David Martin stated, “It is artificial to separate out border security and make it a condition for reform.”

michelle-waslinOnce again, those who call for “enforcement first” have been put on the spot. Will any amount of enforcement ever be enough to move them to the next step? Will they continue to move the goalposts? Or will they finally recognize that comprehensive immigration reform is ultimately about securing our borders?

Michele Waslin

Republished with permission from Immigration Impact.


  1. MdeG says

    Good article, makes a lot of sense.

    Militarizing the border is consuming vast amounts of money & is doing us very little good. The crossings get deadlier, the coyotes get richer, and the traffickers get more and more closely entwined with the drug business. What good is that?

    There *are* things we might be doing that seem likely to help the situation. US-VISIT is one; we check people coming into the country on temporary visas, but do nothing to verify that they’ve left. Why?

    Another, much more fundamental, is the *other* kind of workplace enforcement. I refer to the laws on wages, hours, and workplace safety. Undocumented workers on the whole don’t come here with any harmful intention. Their vulnerability to abuse and unsafe working conditions winds up undercutting pay & treatment for the whole workforce. I’d love to see serious OSHA and wage/hour enforcement, and I’d love to see the slave-masters who abuse immigrant workers go to jail.

    We’re not being invaded, Marshall. There is no overall coordination and for the most part no harmful intent. Most of the folks are just poor people with no legal way in & no way forward in their home countries. Part of why they’re so desperate has to do with US “free trade” policies and other kinds of noxious meddling on our part; part of it has to do with our messed-up immigration system, which is desperately in need of reform.

    No, I don’t live on the border. But I do live in the barrio, and I do know the folks I’m talking about.

  2. Marshall says

    I am with rick on this one. We have been invaded. Bands of armed thugs and drug dealers are maning outposts on our mountain tops. They are armed with military weapons and equipment and can out gun the boarder patrol. They move when choppers of other recon methods arrive. They are there to manage the import of drugs and people into our country. If the same thing was going on our north boarder and the thugs were coming from the US, our northern friends would be taking them out. I say the CIC is not doing his job, he is sitting in DC and watching AZ being invaded.

    BO did nothing about immagration when he had control of both houses. He did nothing (voted against)when Bush tried to do something about immagration so how can he claim the issue now?

    He may have too much on his plate but he is eating too slow and needs to get others to help him clean the plate. Leadership is not present in DC because most of his helpers are short in leadership.

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