During Wednesday’s Senate Judiciary Hearing titled “Comprehensive Immigration Reform,” Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said, “I do not believe the border is secure…I believe we have a long, long way to go.” Cornyn cited the lack of complete operational control of the border region as proof of border security failings.
While it would undoubtedly be desirable to have all border sectors under operational control, it is unnecessary to produce border security. FBI Crime Statistics show that crime rates on the border are down to all time lows, and that the border region is one of the safest in the nation.
Operational control is the highest level of control a border sector can have. To be under operational control, the sector must show “continuous detection and interdiction resources at the immediate border with high probability of apprehension upon entry.”
While 15 percent of the border is under operational control, 85 percent of the border is “managed.” A “managed border sector” is one in which “multi-tiered detection and interdiction resources are in place to fully implement the border control strategy with high probability of apprehension after entry.”
What, then, does a managed border look like? In 2011, it was home to the majority of 21,444 Border Patrol agents, up from fewer than 13,000 only five years before. It has unmanned aircraft systems, mobile surveillance systems, radar and camera towers, locally stationed aircraft, and mobile video surveillance systems that far exceed a set of border enforcement benchmarks proposed by Senate leaders in 2007. And it is only 1 mile short of the 652 miles of fencing mandated by the Secure Fence Act of 2006.
Although border security has improved greatly in recent years, there remains more to do. Maintaining border security in the traditional sense must be complemented by investment in infrastructure that facilitates trade, travel, and tourism.Infrastructure improvements are necessary to ensure the stability and continued expansion of the U.S.-Mexico trade relationship, which is critical to the economic growth and prosperity of both countries.