New drone radar reveals Border Patrol 'gotaways' in high numbers

Article author: 
Andrew Becker
Article publisher:
Article date: 
4 April 2013
Article category: 
National News
Article Body: 

The U.S. Border Patrol has caught a fraction of the border crossers spotted by a sophisticated sensor mounted on unmanned spy aircraft and flown over remote stretches of desert, casting doubts on claims that the area is more secure than ever, according to documents obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting.

The border crossers were spotted with a new, all-seeing radar system developed for use in the Afghanistan War and patrolling above the U.S.-Mexico border in parts of Arizona since March 2012...

Between October and December, records show, the remotely operated aircraft detected 7,333 border crossers during its Arizona missions. Border Patrol agents, however, reported 410 apprehensions during that time, according to an internal agency report. The sensor was credited with providing surveillance that led to 52 arrests and 15,135 pounds of seized marijuana.

Dubbed VADER – for Vehicle and Dismount Exploitation Radar... the sensor can cover a wide swath of land and follow movement as it happens...

Yet its unique abilities could shine an uncomfortable light on the agency’s ability to effectively patrol the border...

Another report that highlights what the radar system detected from October to mid-January underscores the agency’s struggle to measure results and shows conflicting numbers. Border Patrol agents apprehended 1,874 crossers that the sensor identified, but 1,962 more escaped capture.

...simply identifying someone crossing the border is just the first step. On the ground, Border Patrol agents often are not available to respond because of rugged terrain or other assignments [such as "sitting on x's"]. As a result, thousands of people have slipped through. At the Border Patrol, they’re known as “gotaways.”...

In one week in January, for instance, the sensor detected 355 “dismounts,” or on-foot movement, on the U.S. side of the border in Arizona. Border Patrol agents caught 125 of those, about 35 percent, while an additional 141 people evaded apprehension and 87 more turned back south to Mexico...

Amid this debate, unauthorized border traffic has picked up in recent months in some parts of the country. In the Rio Grande Valley sector in South Texas, apprehensions jumped to 97,762 last year, an increase of 65 percent from the previous year, according to internal records...

“The border is more secure than ever? Well, that’s a pretty low bar,” said Michael Nicley, who retired in 2007 as the Border Patrol’s sector chief in Tucson, Ariz. “Border Patrol agents would be the first to stick out their chests and say the border is under control. That’s not what they’re saying. Agents I talk to down here say we’re getting hammered.”..

“The truth is that we need to refine and strengthen the metrics we use to determine how secure our borders and ports of entry are,” Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said in a statement...

Art Del Cueto, president of the Tucson chapter of the National Border Patrol Council, the agents union, said agents are being assigned to agencies like the Drug Enforcement Administration or asked to do tasks like southbound traffic checks for money and guns rather than their traditional immigration enforcement and drug interdiction roles...

Nicley, the retired Tucson sector chief, said a key measurement has always been the number of people who evaded the Border Patrol rather than apprehensions. Gotaways are readily discernible to the agency, he said, but they’re not made public readily.

“It’s easy to ascertain how secure the border is,” he said. “Just compare the number who came across the border and the number who were caught, but that’s not what they want to do. Why aren’t they doing it? The only logical explanation is because the numbers won’t be good.”



CAIRCO Research

See the analysis Illegal immigration invasion numbers analysis, which uses "got away" estimates to calculate that at least 20 million illegal aliens have evaded capture at the US border and are living in the United States.

Also see The Summer 2007 Social Contract issue - How many illegal aliens are in the U.S.? which includes studies from various researchers to conclude that 20 million to 30 million, or even more illegal aliens are living in America.