Updated March 15, 2011Two years after the March 2009 launch of the Obama administration's Southwest Border Initiative, Home Land Security Secretary Janet Napolitano updated Congress on her agency's implementation of the plan and progress in securing the Mexican border.
In her testimony before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Secy. Napolitano sated that by the measures established by her agency and Congress "it is clear that this approach is working."
Border Initiative Background
Just to review, while stemming the flow of illegal immigration from Mexico is an element of the Southwest Border Initiative, it was created mainly out of the Obama administration's concern over increased violence on both sides of the border driven by the Mexican drug cartels.
"We are taking steps on both sides of the border, working with our Mexican partners, to support the Mexican government's campaign against the violent cartels and to reduce contraband in both directions across the border," stated the White House in announcing the Southwest Border Initiative.
When initiated in 2009, the Southwest Border Initiative called for a massive buildup of Border Patrol personnel, improved surveillance and detection technology, construction of over 650 miles of anti-personnel fencing and a host of other measures intended to stem the flow of drugs, guns, money, illegal aliens and violence across the Mexican border.
Besides pointing out that she was raised in New Mexico, spent most of her adult life in Arizona and knows the Southwest border well, Secretary Napolitano told the Judiciary Committee that under her watch, the ranks of the Border Patrol had grown to more than 20,700 agents, more than doubling its 2004 size. Also doubled has been the number of security personnel assigned specifically to Border Enforcement Security Task Forces.
And the growth just keeps on growing. Along with more Border Patrol agents, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has now devoted 25% of its personnel to the Mexican border - the most ever, according to Napolitano. The ICE buildup allows for the screening of all southbound rail and vehicle traffic for illegal weapons and cash headed for the Mexican drug cartels.
Please do fence me in… and them out. Of the 652 miles of border fencing demanded by Congress, nearly 649 miles have been completed at a cost of over $6.5 billion. According to Secy. Napolitano, the fence includes 350 miles of anti-personnel fencing and 299 miles of vehicle barriers.
Also see: Mexico Border Fence Bogs Down
Able to see on both sides of that fence, Predator unmanned aircraft now patrol the entire Southwest border from California to the Gulf of Mexico in Texas. The Predators, said Napolitano, are a key to "improving our tactical communications systems" along the border.
"I speak from personal experience," said Secretary Napolitano, "when I say that the Southwest Border Initiative is the most comprehensive and dedicated effort to strengthen border security our nation has ever deployed."
Border Initiative Results
So has the "most comprehensive and dedicated effort" helped? According to Secretary Napolitano, "it is clear from every key measure that this approach is working, even as we acknowledge that our efforts must not let up."
- Border Patrol Apprehensions: It's what everybody wants to know: how many illegal immigrants have you caught? According to Napolitano, Border Patrol apprehensions - "a key indicator of illegal immigration" - have fallen by 36% since 2008, and are less than one third of when illegal immigration was at its peak. In other words, according to the Secretary, the Border Patrol has caught so many illegal immigrants under the Border Initiative that the number of people trying to cross the border illegally has dropped significantly. "As we have worked to combat illegal crossings, violent crime in border communities has remained flat or fallen in the past decade," she noted.
- Drugs, Guns and Money: According to Secretary Napolitano, seizures of the stuff of which violence is made -- cash, drugs and weapons - have greatly increased along the Southwest border. "In Fiscal Years 2009 and 2010, CBP seized more than $104 million in southbound illegal currency - an increase of approximately $28 million compared to 2007 and 2008. And in Fiscal Years 2009 and 2010, CBP and ICE seized more than $282 million in illegal currency, more than 7 million pounds of drugs, and more than 6,800 weapons along the Southwest border - representing increases of 35 percent in illegal currency seizures, 16 percent in illegal drug seizures, and 28 percent in weapons seizures, compared to the previous two years."
"Protecting our Nation's borders - land, air, and sea - from the illegal entry of people, weapons, drugs, and contraband, remains a critical DHS mission," Secretary Napolitano told the Senators. "Secure borders are not only vital to our national and homeland security, but vital to our economic prosperity."