28 Jan A Comprehensive Approach to Securing the Border in Immigration
Among continuing calls for securing the border as part of any immigration legislative package, it is necessary to understand what is needed to secure the border and how the various components of border security (personnel, technology and infrastructure) work together. The following provides a framework for understanding these components, along with substantive proposals that can provide a comprehensive approach to securing the border against crime, drugs, terrorism, and illegal immigration.
Components of Border Security
The three “pillars” of border security include personnel, technology, and infrastructure. Together, these components work to deter or prevent illegal entry of drugs, contraband or people. Historically, the primary focus on border security has been on personnel; Congress has continued to increase the authorized number of Border Patrol agents over the last decade. However, these agents rely on technology to give them awareness of what is happening on the broad stretches of the border, and infrastructure to both deter crossings and help to funnel illegal activity to areas of the border where it can be more easily intercepted. Overemphasizing one of these components over the others can result not only in inefficient border security but also gaps that can be exploited by smugglers and criminals.
In addition to understanding the components of border security, a complete approach also considers the specific measures within each component that can be most impactful in improving border security. For example, hiring more agents alone may not improve security if they must spend more of their time in the office processing those they apprehend. Placing more technology at the border for surveillance may not improve security if agents are not able to respond to traffic detected. Simply putting more barriers in an area may not improve security if it means that more drugs and people are smuggled through the ports of entry.
Finally, a complete approach should offer rapid deployment, flexibility to adapt to changing border threats, and immediate results, rather than longer-term investments that would siphon resources from tried-and-true solutions, and take many years to show significant impact.
Ports of Entry are also Critical to Border Security
With continued emphasis on illegal crossings between the ports of entry, there has been a shift of smuggling organizations toward exploiting the ports of entry. Currently, more drugs are believed to be smuggled through the ports of entry via various forms of concealment, than between the ports of entry. As it becomes harder to cross the border illegally, more attempts are made to enter through the ports, either via fraud or via concealment.
Border security must include securing the ports of entry as well. Like efforts between the ports, infrastructure, technology and personnel are key, with heavy emphasis on personnel and technology for detection of attempted illegal entries. Our ports of entry are currently understaffed, with literally thousands of crossings daily, giving officers little time to detect fraudulent entry. Detection technologies such as X-Ray and Gamma Scanners need replacement and upgrade, and additional K-9 teams which can be flexibly deployed and can detect drugs, money, guns or people in occupied vehicles, are in limited availability.
Finally, some estimates are that between 40 and 60 percent of recent unauthorized immigrants actually arrived with visas and overstayed. Continued investments by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in biometrics and reengineering the border crossing process can improve the flow of traffic while also aiding in enforcement against overstays.
Specific Border Investments Can Offer Immediate Impact
The following offers suggestions on specific border security measures, for personnel, technology, and infrastructure, that can support immediate investment and results in securing the border. They are drawn from a variety of current legislative proposals and the president’s budget, as well as added areas that may have been overlooked in the discussion on border security.
- Increase the number of CBP officers at ports of entry;
- Increase training for CBP officers and Border Patrol agents;
- Fully staff officers and agents to current authorized levels and, once staffing levels are reached, increase numbers of Border Patrol Agents to at least 26,370 full-time agents if evidence of increases in attempted entries or new threats at the border;
- Increase use of K-9 and horseback patrols, including additional K-9 teams at ports of entry;
- Focus on recruitment and retention including increased funding for CBP retention efforts and retention bonuses after completing five years of service, promote entry levels from GS-5 to GS-9, establish a program to actively recruit members of the reserve component of the armed forces and former members of the armed forces to CBP, and provide additional incentives to agents and officers stationed in more remote areas with limited services, housing, and amenities for families;
- Increase and maintain Office of Air and Marine Operations flight hours at 95,000 annually;
- Promote tactical flexibility by authorizing the transfer of border agents based on operational necessity, provide incentives for more remote assignment
- Authorize non-agent or contract support for non-frontline positions such as operation centers or back office and additional headquarters positions that do not require law enforcement designation to allow law enforcement officials to serve on front lines.
- Authorize non-agent support positions for processing apprehended immigrants, allowing agents to spend more time on patrol.
- Deploy region-specific technology to appropriate sectors of the southern border, such as radar surveillance systems; mobile remote video surveillance systems, Vehicle and Dismount Exploitation Radars (VADER); 3-D Seismic Acoustic Detection and Ranging Border Tunneling Detection Technology; unmanned cameras; air support, such as man-portable and mobile vehicle-mounted unmanned aerial vehicles; sensor equipment; and drones.
- Rebuild roads along the border;
- Clear sightlines and invasive species along the Rio Grande such as Carrizo cane;
- Upgrade and install physical barriers in appropriate sectors, including additional pedestrian barriers in sectors with significant pedestrian crossings, replace vehicle barriers with pedestrian barriers where appropriate, boat ramps, access gates, forward operating bases, checkpoints, lighting, roads, and levee walls;
- Upgrade and maintain CBP Forward Operating Bases, including perimeter security, portable generators, interview rooms, adequate communications including wide areas network connectivity and cellular service, potable water, and helicopter landing zones;
- Improve security and enforcement technology at ports of entry through additional cameras/surveillance of traffic/pedestrian areas, non-intrusive inspection technology improvements, development and deployment of hand-held technologies for data and detection, expansion of facilities to allow for secondary inspection, additional K-9 teams and improving border crossing processing times.