Border Patrol Data Contradicts Napolitano's Testimony That U.S. Has 'Effective Control of the Great Majority' of Both Northern and Southern Borders

February 9, 2011 - 5:56 PM

Janet Napolitano

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

(CNSNews.com) -- Data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, contradicts testimony that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano gave the House Homeland Security Commmittee on Wednesday in which she said that the U.S. government had secured “effective control of the great majority” of the both the northern and southern borders.

According to the data that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has provided to CNSNews.com, as of Sept. 30, 2010 (the end of fiscal year 2010), the U.S. government had established “effective control” of only about 44 percent (873 miles) of the 1,994-mile-long southwest border and only about 2 percent (69 miles) of the approximately 4,000 mile-long northern border.

Border miles under “effective control” is a metric the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) uses in its annual performance reports to measure the success of the Border Patrol.

As defined by DHS, a mile of the border is under the “effective control” of the government “when the appropriate mix of personnel, equipment, technology and tactical infrastructure has been deployed to reasonably ensure that when an attempted illegal entry is detected, the Border Patrol has the ability to identify, classify and respond to bring the attempted illegal entry to a satisfactory law enforcement resolution.”

In other words, a border mile under “effective control” is a place on the border where the U.S. government can be “reasonably” expected to intercept an illegal crosser.

Despite the CBP data showing that as of Sept. 30, 2010 only 44 percent of the U.S. Mexico border and only 2 percent of the U.S.-Canada border was under “effective control,” Napolitano told the House Homeland Security panel on Wednesday: “Well, I think in terms of manpower, technology, infrastructure, we have effective control over the great majority of both borders particularly at the ports and then we are using manpower and new technology to help us between the ports.”

“It is a project that is never-ending,” Napolitano told the committee. “We are relentless in it. We recognize that when you are a country as large as ours with the kind of land borders we have that you’re never going to seal those borders. That is an unrealistic expectation.”

“But I would say my top priority in terms of effective control is the Tucson sector of the southwest border,” she said.

Napolitano’s comments were in response to a question from Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.), whose district lies on the border, who asked her to provide the percentage of both of the U.S. land borders that the U.S. government had under control.

mexico border and usa

After Napolitano's testimony, CBP and DHS did not return calls from CNSNews.com seeking comment on the contrast between Napolitano’s claim to the congressional committee that the government had "effective control over the great majority of both borders" and CBP’s assessment that as of Sept. 30, the government had “effective control” over only 44 percent of the southern border and 2 percent of the northern.

The Border Patrol, a division of the CBP, is responsible for securing a total of 8,607 miles of the U.S. border. This includes all 1,994 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border, approximately 4,000 miles of the U.S.-Canada border, plus sectors of coastline in the Gulf of Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Last October, a CBP spokesperson told CNSNews.com that as of Sept. 30, 2010, Border Patrol, had established “effective control” over 1,107 miles (about 13 percent) of the 8,607 miles it is responsible for securing.

Among the 1,107 miles under “effective control,” 69 miles are on the U.S.-Canada border, 165 miles are in the coastal sectors covered by the Border Patrol, and 873 are on the U.S.-Mexico border.

That means the U.S. government did not have “effective control” of about 56 percent percent of the 1,994-mile-long U.S.-Mexico border or about 98 percent of the approximately 4,000-mile-long northern border.

When CNSNews.com asked Rep. Farenthold if he agreed with Napolitano that the majority of both U.S. borders was under “effective control,” he expressed doubt.

“I think that if we had effective control of both borders we wouldn’t see the level of drugs getting in this country that we do,” the border congressman told CNSNews.com. “So, I’d say we don’t have the level of control that we need to have both in fighting the war on drugs and the war on terror.”

“It’s hard to believe you have control of the borders when you see the proliferation of drugs in this country,” he added. “It’s clear that there are good paths to get drugs into this country and my fear is that those same paths can be exploited by terrorists to bring people and the tools of terrorism into this country. So it’s an ongoing effort. I think  they think they’ve got the best level of control they can, but it’s something that can always be improved.”