Independent study raises the bar for border security, immigration reform

Article author: 
Stephen Dinan
Article publisher: 
The Washington Times
Article date: 
15 May 2013
Article category: 
National News
Article Body: 

The yardstick used in the immigration bill to determine border control may produce too rosy a picture of how well the Border Patrol is doing in cracking down on illegal crossings, according to an independent study released Monday that threatens to upend the immigration debate.

In their 76-page report, three researchers at the Council on Foreign Relations also said the drop in illegal immigration is only partly a result of tougher border security and about two-thirds because of economic changes in Mexico and the U.S. that have made it less attractive for Mexicans to migrate north.

At a time when the success or failure of the immigration bill depends on the security level of the border, the authors said it’s surprising how little is known about border security and how little effort the administration and Congress have made to try to get it under control.

“The Border Patrol doesn’t know what it doesn’t know, which is some people are going to come across the border, get across the border unseen,” said Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and one of the report’s authors.

...The Senate Judiciary Committee... did adopt one key Republican-authored change that would set a goal for the Homeland Security Department to apprehend or deter 90 percent of illegal crossers along the entire southwestern border. As originally written, the bill required the 90 percent standard only in high-traffic sectors.

The Council on Foreign Relations report, though, questioned the measure the Border Patrol uses to calculate the 90 percent “efficiency” rate.

Efficiency is calculated by taking the number of illegal crossers the Border Patrol captures and the number it estimates turned back, and then guessing how many got away cleanly. A 90 percent efficiency rating would mean nine out of 10 who crossed illegally were apprehended or forced to turn back.

The problem, according to critics on Capitol Hill and to the report’s authors, is that it’s tough to estimate “turn-backs” and those who got away.

Border Patrol figures suggest an 80 percent efficiency rating right now.

But the Council on Foreign Relations researchers looked at other methods of tracking illegal crossings, including surveys administered to those trying to cross and Border Patrol statistics on recidivism. By those numbers, the Border Patrol was catching no more than 60 percent of illegal crossers at the end of the last decade...


CAIRCO Research:

How many illegal aliens reside in the United States? - including an in-depth analysis of border apprehensions and "got aways"

Border security and porous border fencing

Managing Illegal Immigration to the United States, CFR, May, 2013