Federal Auditor: Border Patrol Can Stop Illegal Entries Along Only 129 Miles of 1,954-Mile Mexican Border

March 31, 2011 - 12:57 PM

Border fence

A fence erected by the federal government to secure the U.S.-Mexico border in San Miguel, Ariz. (AP photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(CNSNews.com) - Richard M. Stana, director of homeland security and justice issues at the Government Accountability Office (which is responsible for “auditing agency operations to determine whether federal funds are being spent efficiently and effectively”), told the Senate Homeland Security Committee yesterday that the federal government can actually prevent or stop illegal entries into the United States along only 129 miles of the 1,954-mile-long U.S.-Mexico border.

That leaves 1,825 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border where the Border Patrol cannot prevent or stop an illegal entry.

Nonetheless, Stana told the committee, the Border Patrol itself says it has established “an acceptable level of control” along 873 miles of the 1,954-mile-long southwest border. This is because of the way the Border Patrol defines “an acceptable level of control” of the border.

“According to Border Patrol,” Stana told the committee, “an acceptable level of border control is established when it has the capability (i.e., resources) to deter or detect and apprehend incursions at the immediate border or after entry.” [Emphasis added.]

In addition to the 129 miles where the Border Patrol says it can actually “deter or detect and apprehend illegal entries” at the border itself, Stana told the committee, there are another 744 miles where the Border Patrol says it has the capability to deter or detect and apprehend illegal entrants after they have entered the county and penetrated U.S. territory to “distances of up to 100 miles or more away from the immediate border.”

The 3,918-mile-long northern border of the United States is virtually wide open, according to Stana’s testimony. The Border Patrol, Stana said, reports that it has established “an acceptable level of control” along only 69 miles of this border and that of those 69 miles there are only 2 miles where the Border Patrol can actually prevent or stop an illegal entry.

Along the remaining, 3,916 miles of the northern border the Border Patrol does not have the capability to deter or detect and apprehend an intruder.

“As we testified in February 2011 about our preliminary observations on this measure, Border Patrol indicated that in fiscal year 2010, 873 of the nearly 2,000 southwest border miles and 69 of the nearly 4,000 northern border miles between Washington and Maine were at an acceptable level of control,” Stana told the committee in his written testimony.

“Within this border security classification, Border Patrol further distinguished between the ability to deter or detect and apprehend illegal entries at the immediate border versus after entry—at distances of up to 100 miles or more away from the immediate border—into the United States,” Stana wrote.

“Our preliminary analysis of these Border Patrol data showed that the agency reported a capability to deter or detect and apprehend illegal entries at the immediate border across 129 of the 873 southwest border miles and 2 of the 69 northern border miles," Stana testified. "Our preliminary analysis also showed that Border Patrol reported the ability to deter or detect and apprehend illegal entries after they crossed the border for an additional 744 southwest border miles and 67 northern border miles.”

Stana said that in fiscal 2010 “about $11.9 billion [was] appropriated to secure the entire U.S. border (for personnel, infrastructure, and technology).”

Only about a third of this money was spent to secure the border in the vast territories between the official ports of entry (POE). “CBP reported that $3.6 billion was appropriated in fiscal year 2010 for border security efforts between the POEs,” Stana testified.

Overall, the federal government spent $3.72 trillion in fiscal 2010, according to the White House Office of Management and Budget. That means the $11.9 billion the government spent on securing the entire U.S. border equaled 0.3 percent of federal spending and the $3.6 billion the federal government spent on securing the border between the ports of entry equaled about 0.1 percent.