Border Facts

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Why we need better border, not more border enforcement.


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Benchmarks for Border Security Have Already Been Met.

In the national conversation around immigration reform, enforcement-first proponents keep moving the goalposts on what a secure border should look like, when all of the previous benchmarks have been met or exceeded.

21,033 Border Patrol agents
25,326 Inspectors at Ports of Entry
653 miles of fencing
356 video surveillance systems
10 drones for air surveillance
34,000 detention beds 

It’s time to move forward to fix our nation’s broken immigration system and create lawful pathways to unite families and meet workforce demands. 

Border Communities are Safe.

The southern border region is home to some 15 million people living in border counties in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. These communities, which include cities such as San Diego and El Paso, are among the safest in the country. Crime rates associated with unauthorized migration such as breaking and entering, trespassing, and car theft are well below the national average in all border communities.

Net Unauthorized Migration from Mexico has Fallen to Zero. 

A weakening U.S. economy, strengthened enforcement, and a growing Mexican economy have led to a dramatic decrease in unauthorized migration from Mexico. In fact, net migration from Mexico is now zero or slightly negative (more people leaving than coming). The profile of those still crossing without authorization has changed from being predominantly young, first-time crossers seeking a better life to older, prior crossers, with few ties to their home country, seeking to rejoin their families.

Border Enforcement Costs Billions, Can We Afford More? 

U.S. taxpayers spend more on immigration enforcement agencies (almost $18 billion) than we do on all other enforcement agencies comined, including the FBI, DEA, ATF, US Marshals, Secret Service. The bulk of this money goes to Customs and Border Protection (CBP). With a budget of $13 billion and more than 59,000 personnel, CBP is the largest law enforcement agency in the country, and their agents are concentrated on the southern border.

With Crossings at a Historic Low, Apprehensions are Manageable. 

With the buildup of enforcement between the ports of entry, land ports have been neglected, creating choke points for the more than 185 million people and 7 million containers entering lawfully through our southern ports every year.15 These choke points regularly cause crossing delays several hours long, inhibiting binational trade, exacerbating local air pollution and traffic congestion, and frustrating binational relationships. Less than 0.1% of crossers are found inadmissible every year.16 The challenge for CBP port inspectors is to facilitate the flow of legitimate crossers, who make up more than 99.9% of crossers, and detect the other 0.1% who are not. Modernizing port infrastructure, increasing operational hours, and expanding trusted traveler programs would alleviate choke points and allow inspectors to manage risks.

Efficient Ports of Entry Should be the Priority Moving Forward. 

With the buildup of enforcement between the ports of entry, land ports have been neglected, creating choke points for the more than 215 million people and 13 million containers entering legally through our northern and southern ports every year.6 These choke points regularly cause crossing delays several hours long, inhibiting binational trade, exacerbating local air pollution and traffic congestion, and frustrating binational relationships. 

Less than 107,000 crossers are found inadmissible (less than one-twentieth of one percent) every year. The challenge for CBP port inspectors is to facilitate the flow of legitimate crossers, who make up more than 99.95% of crossers, and detect the other 0.05% who are not. Because of the volume of crossers, ports are an attractive route for illegal activity. Modernizing port infrastructure, increasing operational hours, and expanding trusted traveler programs would alleviate choke points and allow inspectors to manage risks. 

Heartland States Depend on Efficient Ports at the Southern Border. 

Investments in southern ports of entry represent a tremendous cost benefit to the entire country. The ports along the southern border are critical gateways to Mexico, our third largest trading partner and the second largest market for U.S. exports. Every day about 500,000 people and 19,000 containers enter lawfully through our southern ports. The vast majority of crossers are border residents who come to shop, do business, and visit, fueling our economy and strengthening our relationships. The containers are destined to all 50 states, with many arriving empty and ready to load U.S. goods for sale in Mexico. Mexico is a top export destination for heartland states such as Nebraska, South Dakota, and Kansas, and an estimated 5 million jobs (one in every 24 workers in the country) depend on trade with Mexico. Delays at ports of entry are costing the United States and Mexico billions of dollars each year.

The Dangers of Unchecked Border Enforcement.

CBP has extraordinary authority that far exceeds other law enforcement agencies. Under 8 U.S.C. 1357(a) and 8 C.F.R. 287.1, CBP asserts the power to act without a warrants and do any of the following inside the United States without first establishing any suspicion of wrongdoing as is normally required under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution:

• Interrogate anyone to ask for their papers in the U.S.

• Search public transportation up to 100 miles from border

• Enter onto private property (but not a dwelling) up to 25 miles from the border. 

CBP’s extraordinary authority coupled with extraordinary resources has led to repeated abuse of power, pointing to gaps in agency oversight, accountability and training. Since 2010, CBP agents have killed more than 50 border residents.22 At the same time, the media has uncovered more than 150 incidents of corruption among agents that include drug trafficking, bribery, and human smuggling.23  No known agents have been convicted, put on leave or otherwise held accountable.

A Better Border Begins with Efficiency & Accountability.

In the 21st century, border residents and travelers should be able to cross through efficient ports and be safe from corruption and abuse. The rapid buildup of CBP personnel has not been matched with a commensurate investment in oversight such as through the hiring of internal affairs investigators. The ratio of investigators to CBP enforcement agents is dangerously low with a ratio of one investigator for every 200 CBP agents. Using the FBI’s ratio of one investigator for every 50 agents as a benchmark, the CBP Integrity Advisory Panel has characterized the CBP Office of Internal Affairs as “woefully understaffed”and the internal affairs disciplinary process as “broken.” In light of these deficiencies, oversight and accountability must become a priority.