Numbers and facts can be debated, but results are hard to argue with. The Washington Post’s recent article, “Fewer immigrants are entering the U.S. illegally, and that’s changed the border security debate” discusses the current state of our nation’s southwest border. It captures not only the realities of a more secure border, but also addresses some of the telling outcomes of our nation’s incrementally enhanced border security.
When I took over the reigns as National Chief of the Border Patrol in 2004, we had roughly 9,000 Border Patrol Agents in service throughout the southern and northern borders of the United States. It took bold efforts, commitment and decisiveness on the part of leadership at all levels of our government to implement strategic, measured, and assertive efforts to support border security and get us started down this path.
In three years, we doubled the size of Border Patrol to over 18,000 agents and eventually grew to over 21,000. There are now over 18,000 agents serving along the southern border alone. During that same time period, and for the first time in the history of our nation, we built over 660 miles of southern border infrastructure designed to deter the flow of illegal entries into our country. Additional personnel and infrastructure, combined with an unprecedented effort to add detection, surveillance, and situational awareness technology, had a tremendous impact on the illegal flow of people and criminal organizations’ ability to operate along our borders.
While Deputy Commissioner and Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, I helped urge Congress to support additional officers at our ports of entry. In response, Congress increased officers along our nation’s commerce and trade gateways. The results of these security changes are tangible. Trade and international commerce have increased, yet illegal entries between the ports of entry are at their lowest in over four decades. Quality of life has increased along our southwest border and border city crime rates are among the lowest in our country.
There is more to do on border security—there always will be. We must not lose ground or momentum. Our Congressional leaders and the Administration need to take collaborative steps towards an agreement on what is best for our nation and continue to build on what has already been accomplished.