Border Patrol Has ‘Controlled’ Only 129 Miles of 1,994-Mile U.S. Mexico Border, According to Federal Audit

By Edwin Mora | February 15, 2011 | 9:44 PM EST

Border Patrols has 'controlled' only 129 miles of the 1,949 mile U.S.-Mexico border.

( - Richard Stana, the Government Accountability Office’s director of homeland security and justice issues, told a U.S. House Subcommittee that the GAO had determined that the Border Patrol has “controlled” only 129 miles of the 1,994-mile-long 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 Border Patrol has not established this level of security along the other 1,865 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Stana explained that the Border Patrol has a five-level rating system for grading the security it has established on any given section of the U.S.-Mexico border. These include: “controlled,” “managed,” “monitored,” “low-level monitored,” and “remote/low activity.” In public reporting on its progress in securing the border, the Border Patrol lumps the first two levels of security—“controlled” and “managed”—into a single broader category it refers to as either “operational control” or “effective control.”

“Border Patrol reported that its levels of operational control for most border miles reflected its ability to respond to illegal activity after entry into the United States and not at the immediate border,” said Stana’s written testimony. “Operational control encompassed two of the five levels used to classify the security level of each border mile. The two levels of control differed in the extent that Border Patrol resources were available to either deter or detect and apprehend illegal entries at the immediate border (controlled) versus a multi-tiered deployment of Border Patrol resources to deter, detect, and apprehend illegal entries after entry into the United States; sometimes 100 miles or more away (managed). 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” equal 15 percent of the miles the Border Patrol calls under “operational control,” they equal only 6.5 percent of the entire 1,994 mile U.S.-Mexico border.

Along that majority of the border that is not under “operational control,” Stana said that in about two-thirds of the miles the Border Patrol was likely to detect illegal aliens but not apprehend them, and that in one-third of the miles it cannot even consistently detect illegal border crossings.

“For the 1,120 miles not recorded to be under ‘operational control’, the Border Patrol said it was likely to detect, but not apprehend in about two-thirds of the miles, and in one-third of those miles it does not have the capability consistently to detect at all,” said Stana.

That means that there are about 373 miles of U.S. Mexico border where the U.S government not only fails to consistently detect an illegal entry, but that those illegal entries will never be caught—even 100 miles north of the border.