Border Patrol Chief: We Have ‘Operational Control’ of U.S.-Mexico Border Where We Need It

By Penny Starr | March 29, 2011 | 6:42 PM EDT

Deputy Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection David Aguilar

( – The deputy commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, David Aguilar, said that 1,100 miles – ‘give or take a couple of miles’ – of the U.S.-Mexico border is under operational control by his agency. For the remaining 800 to 900 miles, he said that 510 miles of the Marfa sector along the Texas border does not need the same degree of security as the sectors in urban areas.

Aguilar also said that the U.S.-Mexico border should not be sealed.

“On the southern border, there’s about 1,100 miles, give or take a couple of miles, that we consider under operational control, as per the definitions we have,” Aguilar told on Monday when asked how much of the almost 2,000-mile border between the United States and Mexico he considered completely secure.

“That leaves about 800 or 900 miles the remainder,” Aguilar said. “Within the 800 to 900 miles are places like the Marfa sector – 510 [miles] – we do not need as high level of control as we would need in these urban areas.”

Aguilar, speaking at a National Journal event in Washington, D.C., said 1,100 secure miles are based on the “geographical line” used by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP)  to measure the border between the United States and Mexico and that the remaining miles are not considered unsecured.

“So, having said that, it is 1,100 miles of operational control as gauged for that specific geographic line,” Aguilar said. “But does that mean the remainder is out of control? The answer to that is a definitive, ‘No.’”

Earlier in remarks, Aguilar referred to a 2011 General Accounting Office (GAO) report on homeland security that showed only 15 percent of the U.S.-Mexico border is classified as “controlled.”

“When the GAO talks about 15 percent under operational control, well, the operational control that we have right now is within the urban areas of operation,” Aguilar said, adding that urban areas need more scrutiny than remote locations.

As reported earlier, Richard Stana, the Government Accountability Office’s director of homeland security and justice issues, told a U.S. House Subcommittee in February that the GAO had determined that the Border Patrol “controlled” only 129 miles of the 1,994-mile U.S.-Mexico border, meaning that in those 129 miles it can actually detect illegal aliens with a “high probability” of apprehending them at the border.

The GAO’s preliminary analysis of the 873 border miles under operational control in 2010 showed that about 129 miles (15 percent) were classified as ‘controlled’ and the remaining 85 percent were classified as “managed.”

While the 129 miles of U.S.-Mexico border that the Border Patrol has actually “controlled” equals 15 percent of the miles the Border Patrol says is under “operational control,” they equal only 6.5 percent of the entire 1,994-mile U.S.-Mexico border.

When asked Aguilar whether that border between the United States and Mexico could be sealed, he said that it could not and should not be sealed.

“Seal is a very definitive term – that says 100 percent,” Aguilar said. “Even technology does not go to 100 percent. No, we can’t seal it, and we shouldn’t seal it because of the trade, the commerce, the relationships, the requirements that we have as neighboring countries.

“But do you mitigate risk to the highest degree possible?” Aguilar said. “Absolutely. And that is what we’re working toward [for] specific areas of the border.”