Even though the Border Patrol now reports that almost 1,300 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border is not under effective control, and the Department of Justice says that vast stretches of the border are “easily breached,” and the Government Accountability Office has revealed that three persons “linked to terrorism” and 530 aliens from “special interest countries” were intercepted at Border Patrol checkpoints last year, the administration is nonetheless now planning to decrease the number of Border Patrol agents deployed on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Border Patrol Director of Media Relations Lloyd Easterling confirmed this week–as I first reported in my column yesterday–that his agency is planning for a net decrease of 384 agents on the U.S.-Mexico border in fiscal 2010, which begins on October 1.
A Department of Homeland Security annual performance review updated by the Obama administration on May 7 said the Border Patrol “plans to move several hundred Agents from the Southwest Border to the Northern Border to meet the FY 2010 staffing requirements, with only a small increase in new agents for the Southwest Border in the same year.”
Easterling said on Tuesday that in fiscal 2009, 17,399 Border Patrol agents have been deployed on the U.S.-Mexico border. In fiscal year 2010, the Border Patrol plans to decrease that by 384 agents, leaving 17,015 deployed along the Mexican frontier. At the same time, the number of Border Patrol agents deployed on the U.S.-Canada border will be increased by 414, from a fiscal 2009 total of 1,798 agents to a fiscal 2010 total of 2,212.
The Border Patrol is responsible for securing a total of 8,607 miles of border, including the U.S.-Mexico border, the U.S.-Canada border from Washington state to Maine, and sectors of coastline in the Gulf of Mexico, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Each year, the Border Patrol sets a goal for “border miles under effective control (including certain coastal sectors).” “Effective control,” as defined by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, means that when the Border Patrol detects an illegal border crosser in a particular area of the border the agency can be expected to succeed in apprehending that person.
In the May 7 update of its performance review, DHS said the Border Patrol’s goal for fiscal 2009 was to have 815 of the 8,607 miles of border for which the agency is responsible under “effective control.” The review also said the Border Patrol’s goal for fiscal 2010 was to again have 815 miles of border under “effective control,” meaning DHS was not planning to secure a single additional mile of border in the coming year.
However, Acting Deputy Assistant Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Todd Owen told a House committee in July that the Border Patrol already had 894 miles of border under effective control as of May 31 of this year. These 894 miles, Owen said, included 697 miles on the Mexican border, 32 miles on the Canadian border and 165 miles in the coastal sectors.
Easterling said this week that as of now the Border Patrol still has the same 894 miles of border under effective control that it had under effective control as of May 31. He also said the agency would not relinquish control of any of these miles in the coming year. After the beginning of the new fiscal year, he said, the Border Patrol would reevaluate the situation and set a new goal for border miles under “effective control” for 2010 that would at least equal, and might exceed, the 894 miles currently under effective control.
“The intention is to take back the border incrementally, and make gains that we can keep,” Easterling said. “We do not intend, nor will we give back, miles that we have gained control over.”
Easterling said the Border Patrol would be able to maintain the current number of miles under effective control on the Mexico border with fewer agents deployed there thanks to “force multipliers,” including new fencing, roads and other infrastructure that has been built in recent years. He also cited the assistance the Border Patrol receives from local police and sheriffs departments and community watch groups.
But even if the Border Patrol is able to maintain or marginally improve on the current level of security on the U.S.-Mexico border, most of the border will remain effectively open to smuggling both contraband and persons.
The entire U.S.-Mexico border is 1,954 miles long, according to the International Boundary and Water Commission. While 697 of those miles are now under “effective control,” according to the Border Patrol, 1,257 miles are not under “effective control.”