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Border security: An achievable imperative

Border security is an
imperative to addressing
national security
and transnational criminal
threat concerns,
as well as a practical
necessity to effectively
administer a reformed
immigration system.

While border security
must necessarily address
our northern border and incorporate
the need to secure sea and air ports of entry
as well, our Southwest border has been the
initial focal point. It is a real but completely
unnecessary vulnerability. We in Arizona
have had to face the effects of the federal
government’s failure to adequately address
border security and have seen the commitment
of federal resources ebb and fl ow with
the political tides. Enough is enough.

The national security imperative for
border security is readily evident. Over the
last fi ve years, Border Patrol has detained
people from 187 different countries along
the Southwest border. That includes people
from every country on our state-sponsors of
terrorism list and from countries designated
as “special countries of interest,” which
include Syria, Sudan, Iran, Afghanistan,
Pakistan and Somalia. Last fi scal year alone,
255 “special interest aliens” were detained.
And the intersection of border smuggling
and terrorism has been confi rmed. In
Congressional testimony on August 1, 2012,
Charles K. Edwards, the Acting Inspector
General of DHS stated, “DTOs [Drug
Traffi cking Organizations] are becoming
involved increasingly in systematic corruption
of DHS employees to further alien and
drug smuggling, including the smuggling
of aliens from designated special interest
countries likely to export terrorism.” It is
unconscionable and inexcusable to remain
this vulnerable.

The second imperative for border security
addresses transnational criminal threats.
For Arizona and Maricopa County, we
have to face this threat head on and deal
with the overall impact of human and drug
smuggling every day. In a summary of fi scal
year 2012 operations, Customs and Border
Protection reported that 35% of the people
apprehended along the Southwest border,
124,631 were in Arizona alone. Drugs seized
amounted to 1.1 million pounds, also 35%
of the total seized along the entire border.
The Phoenix metro area is now the Sinaloa
Cartel’s hub for heroin distribution to meet
demand on the East Coast, leading to
poppy fi elds replacing marijuana fi elds in
Mexico. If we close off the smuggling routes
for cartels, there is also more than a reasonable
likelihood of decreased border and
drug-related violence that must necessarily
inure to the benefi t of citizens on both sides
of the border.

The third imperative for border security is
the practical recognition that to effectively
administer an immigration system, you
need to restrict the ability for people to
circumvent it. Given that approximately half
of all people present in the U.S. without
lawful authority entered illegally, securing
the border to deny anyone the opportunity
to enter anywhere other than an authorized
port of entry is necessary. While the number
of apprehensions is down from a height of
1.68 million in FY 2000 to 356,873 in FY
2012, there is no foolproof way to measure
the numbers of successful entries.

How to defi ne border security? An
objective defi nition was used by the GAO
to assess the Border Patrol’s effectiveness
in a report to Congress dated February
15, 2011: Preliminary Observations on
Border Control Measures for the Southwest
Border. In identifying only 873 miles of the
nearly 2,000- mile border, roughly 44%, as
under any degree of operational control,
the GAO used objective defi nitions and
performance criteria. That gives us a workable
defi nition and a baseline measurement
for determining when the border is under
operational control and secure, addressing
concerns that border security is undefi ned,
unachievable and a barrier to other needed
reforms. Additionally, completing necessary
work across the remainder of the border
can occur in parallel while readying other
administrative and bureaucratic reforms.
The declaration of establishing operational
control for 100% of the border can then be
used as a triggering event for implementing
other reforms.

As for how we establish operational control,
fencing is but one element. However,
a fence running the entire length of the
border is not practical. If you cannot keep
eyes on or get to a breach in a timely manner,
it is not an obstacle to illegal entry; it
is only a speed bump. We can also apply a
mix of UAVs, airborne sensors and ground
based remote passive and active sensors,
coupled with observation towers – manned
and unmanned – to create an effective multilayered
approach to establishing operational
control. We should expect more from
our federal government and the safety and
security of our citizens demands no less.

Bill Montgomery is the Maricopa County