Half of All Illegal Entries and Marijuana Smuggled Into U.S. in 2010 Came Through One Sector of AZ Border, Says Border Patrol

December 14, 2010 - 8:59 PM

US-Mexico border

The international border in Nogales, Ariz., as seen on Thursday, April 22, 2010. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - Approximately “half of all illegal entries” into the United States and "half of all of the marijuana smuggled into the United States" in fiscal 2010 occurred in the Border Patrol's Tucson Sector, which takes up only a part of the Arizona-Mexico border, according to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) Commissioner Alan Bersin.

More than two-thirds of the Tucson Sector itself is under "effective control," according to CBP, which by definition means that the government can "reasonably ensure" that illegal entries are intercepted there.

That leaves, by CBP's accounting, just a small part of the Tucson sector open to a massive influx of illegal aliens and illegal drugs.

And this bulging gap in border security is in a state that the federal government is currently suing for allegedly usurping the federal government's rightful authority to enforce immigration laws.

CBP divides the almost 2,000-mile-long U.S.-Mexico border into 9 sectors. They run from the Pacific Coast to the Gulf Coast in this order: San Diego, El Centro, Yuma, Tucson, El Paso, Marfa, Del Rio, Laredo, and Rio Grande.

Arizona's portion of the U.S.-Mexico border is 378 miles long, straddling two of the Border Patrol's sectors: Yuma and Tucson. The Yuma Sector (which includes the easternmost 10 miles of the California-Mexico border) takes up the westernmost 116 miles of the Arizona-Mexico border. The other 262 miles of the Arizona-Mexico border fall in the Tucson Sector. The Border Patrol's El Paso sector begins on the New Mexico side of the Arizona-New Mexico border.

A Customs and Border Protection spokesperson told CNSNews.com that as of Sept. 30 (the last day of fiscal year 2010), the federal government believed it had achieved what it calls "effective control" of 293 miles of the 378-mile-long Arizona-Mexico border and that the remaining 85 miles of the Arizona-Mexico border that are not under "effective control" are all in the Tucson Sector.

Border Patrol Sectors

U.S. Customs and Border Protection says that it has established "effective control" of 293 miles of the 378-mile-long Arizona-Mexico border and that all of the 85 miles that are not under "effective control" are in the Tucson Sector, where about half of all illegal entries into the United States took place in fiscal 2010.

All 126 miles of the Yuma Sector, including the 10 miles in California and the 116 miles in Arizona, are under "effective control," the spokesperson said.

As defined by the Department of Homeland Security, a mile of the border is under “effective control” when the “appropriate mix of personnel, equipment, technology and tactical infrastructure has been deployed to reasonably ensure” that illegal entries are intercepted.

“Border miles under effective control” is a metric the DHS uses in its annual performance reports to measure how well the CBP is performing.

Three of the four Arizona counties contiguous with the U.S.-Mexico border--Cochise, Santa Cruz, and Pima counties--are in the Tucson Sector. The fourth--Yuma County--is in the Yuma Sector.

Despite the continuing problems in the Tucson Sector, a CBP spokesperson told CNSNews.com that the agency has been improving its performance there. In fiscal 2009, the spokesperson said, the government considered only 119 miles of this sector under "effective control." In fiscal 2010, the spokesperson said, it considered 177 miles under "effective control."

In his prepared remarks for an Oct. 14 speech at the Migration Policy Institute, CBP Commissioner Alan Bersin publicly acknowledged the lack of border security in the Tucson Sector, but did not spell out that CBP believes it has effectively controlled most of the border miles in that sector, while leaving a gap of only 85 miles.

"Today, the area that remains our greatest challenge is the Tucson Sector," said Bersin. "Approximately half of all illegal entries occur across the 260 miles of border in this Sector, and traffickers believe they can use the inhospitable terrain to evade authorities."

A CBP spokesperson explained to CNSNews.com that what Bersin meant by "illegal entries" in this staement was the actual apprehension of illegal border crossers, which equaled 463,000 nationwide in fiscal 2010.

According to the CBP, the Tucson Sector is “the busiest Sector in the country in both illegal alien apprehensions and marijuana seizures.”

Two Arizona sheriffs, one from a border county located in the Tucson Sector and another from a county 70 miles north of the border in that sector, rejected the CBP’s claim that the government is able to “reasonably” detect illegal entries along most of the 378-mile long Arizona-Mexico border, except for 85 miles along CBP’s Tucson Sector.

Sheriff Larry Dever of Cochise County, whose jurisdiction includes 80 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border in the Tucson Sector, said, “That is an interesting statement, if not particularly believable.”  He further said that the Border Patrol is making inaccurate claims about being able to “capture one in every 2.6 illegal crossers” in that sector. (Border Patrol is a division of the CBP.)

“By some estimation they catch only one in ten,” said Dever.  “I think it would be interesting to see a map that supports that claim.”

In addition, Sheriff Paul Babeu of Pinal County, which is about 70 miles north of the border in the Tucson Sector, said he is “not buying” the story that all but 85 miles of the Arizona-Mexico are under “effective control.”

Such a claim is “blatantly false,” Babeu said, because by DHS’s own admission all three Arizona counties located in the Tucson Sector “are not under their control.”

However, Babeu agreed that Yuma County in the Yuma Sector is under control.

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, as estimated by CBP; 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.

CNSNews.com previously reported that the federal government believes it has established “effective control” along only 873 miles of the approximately 1,994-mile-long U.S.-Mexico border.

Border miles under effective control “is not the only measure of border security and does not mean that mileage not considered under ‘effective control’ is wide open to illicit activity,” a CBP spokesperson told CNSnews.com.

“This terminology is more geared toward local operators that takes into consideration geographies/terrain/challenges unique to each Sector,” said the spokesperson.” Taking this information as the sole definition for successfully managing the borders would not be an accurate portrayal.”

“Our overall border security efforts are based on risk management, and effectively applying the right mix of personnel, technology, [and] infrastructure to the right areas,” said the spokesperson.

In his actual address at the Migration Policy Institute, Berson added that almost half of the marijuana smuggled into the United Stats comes through this same limited area. "Just under half of all of the marijuana smuggled into the United States comes through that same corridor,” said Bersin.