Friday, March 22, 2013



Note: Long read as with most policy related pieces. But LAL'S
( Lowly AZ Locals) and other border state residents may find the
following of even more interest.

Baseline For Acceptable Level Of Illicit Cross-Border Activity Gets
Closer Scrutiny
March 21, 2013
By: Anthony Kimery

More than a year ago, senior Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
officials began to discuss whether, as a matter of policy, a
statistical baseline for an allowable level of illegal migration and
other illicit cross-border activity could be established as a
realistic metric for measuring acceptable security on the Southwest

Policymakers understand that there will always be a certain degree of
illegal migration and other cross-border activity -- that absolute
impenetrability is impossible. The question is, can a baseline for an
acceptable level of illegal activity be established. The thinking --
inside and outside the government -- seems to be that if a baseline
can be statistically quantified, then it can be used as a metric for
not only relative border security, but that enforcement efforts also
are sufficient to filter or prevent covert entry by terrorists and

With the success that DHS and Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
have had in buttoning-up the Southwest border, an allowable level of
illegal cross-border activity -- a "baseline, if you will, could, in
effect, be accepted as a static illicit flow that translates into a
controllable border," an official familiar with the matter said on

DHS has not, however, formally commented on how seriously it is
considering a statistically acceptable level of illicit cross-border
activity as a guage of manageable security, but clearly the concept
is viewed as a potentially realistic metric, officials said.

What DHS has acknowledged, is that for several years it's been
working on a new "holistic" measurement of border security, called
the Border Condition Index (BCI). This BCI would "provide a top level
summary of systematic border trends."

"DHS argues that preventing all unlawful entries is not an attainable
outcome," and DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano has stated that DHS will
never be able to 'seal the border' in the sense of preventing all
illegal migration," former Immigration and Naturalization Service
Commissioner, Doris Meissner, told the Senate Committee on Homeland
Security and Governmental Affairs at a March 14 hearing.

Senior Fellow and Director of the US Policy Program Migration Policy
Institute, Meissner told the panel that "Border Patrol has been re-
assessing its definition of border control and the metrics to be used
in determining control. Part of its thinking may involve the concept
of determining and monitoring baseline flows."

"As in other areas of law enforcement, where some degree of law-
breaking is expected to occur and is met with policing responses, CBP
rightly argues that certain baseline flows of people and drugs
crossing the border illegally will exist," Meissner pointed out.

"Thus," she said, "the goal is distribution of baseline flows as
evenly as possible so that no location is taking the brunt, and
effective responses and deterrence keep them to a minimum."

"Low-level, distributed flows, under this theory," Meissner said,
"constitute 'risk mitigation' consistent with law enforcement
practices that see success as reducing risk to a point of low
probability of high-risk occurrences, especially terrorism."

"For fiscal year 2011, the Tucson Sector had 123,285 apprehensions.
The Border Patrol states that at that level, given the steep
percentage declines of recent years, the Tucson Sector could be
reaching the level of its baseline flows, as have San Diego, El Paso
and the other sectors that now experience a degree of illegal
crossing attempts but are able to respond to them and are, therefore,
deemed to be under control," said Meissner.

Similarly, Edward Alden, the Bernard L. Schwartz Senior Fellow at the
Council on Foreign Relations, told the committee that "a secure
border cannot mean one with no illegal crossings" because "that would
be unrealistic for almost any country, especially one as big and as
open as the United States. On the other hand, the borders cannot be
considered secure if many of those attempting to enter illegally

"Defining a sensible middle ground, where border enforcement and
other programs discourage many illegal crossings and most of those
who try to cross illegally are apprehended, is the challenge," stated
Alden, who served as project director for the 2009 Independent Task
Force on US Immigration Policy, and author of, The Closing of the
American Border: Terrorism, Immigration, and Security Since 9/11.

"It is not clear that more walls, technology and manpower at the
border have significantly diminished illicit cross-border flows. On
the contrary, despite very costly investments in border interdiction,
illicit flows of cross-border flows of people, drugs, guns and cash
are likely to continue even with significantly greater investments in
border enforcement," Dr. David A. Shirk, director of the University
of San Diego's Trans-Border Institute, further told the committee.

"At best, US authorities have succeeded only partially in securing
the border against outside threats -- primarily by raising the stakes
for migrants and smugglers, and thereby discouraging terrorists --
but at extraordinary cost," Shirk said.

"Ultimately," though, Shirk said, "the real question is how 'tough'
border security has to be -- not only as a deterrent, but also as a
filter -- and what other mechanisms can be used to enhance the
effectiveness of border security. Given the enormous investments in
post-9/11 border security measures, this is ultimately a question of
whether tougher border security measures merit the numerous costs" of
additional border enforcement.

Testifying March 20 during hearings on measuring border security by
the House Committee on Homeland Security, Border Patrol Chief Michael
Fisher and Kevin McAleenan, CBP Acting Assistant Commissioner, Office
of Field Operations, said in a joint statement that while "Some have
suggested that [border security] can be measured in terms of linear
miles of 'operational control,' a tactical term once used by the
Border Patrol to allocate resources among sectors and stations along
the border, we do not use this term as a measure of border security
because the reality is that the condition of the border cannot be
described by a single objective measure. It is not a measure of
crime, because even the safest communities in America have some
crime. It is not merely a measure of resources, because even the
heaviest concentration of fencing, all weather roads, 24-hour
lighting, surveillance systems and Border Patrol agents cannot seal
the border completely."

"For CBP, securing our borders means first having the visibility to
see what is happening on our borders, and second, having the capacity
to respond to what we see," said Fisher and McAleenan. "We get
visibility through the use of border surveillance technology,
personnel and air and marine assets. Our ability to respond is also
supported by a mix of resources including personnel, tactical
infrastructure, and air and marine assets."

Following a detailed recitation of achievements that have "led to
unprecedented success" in securing the border, Fisher and McAleenan
stated "DHS uses a number of indicators and outcomes to evaluate
security efforts at our borders, including factors described above
such as resource deployment, crime rates in border communities and
apprehensions. However, while enforcement statistics and economic
indicators point to increased security and an improved quality of
life, no single metric can conclusively define the state of border
security. Any individual metric can only capture one element of
border security and none captures the true state of security along
our borders. Rather than focus on any particular metric, our focus is
on the enhancement of our capabilities, ensuring that we have tools
that will lead to a high probability of interdiction in high activity
areas along our Southwest border."

Last Spring, Napolitano told the Senate Homeland Security Committee
that DHS is considering "metrics" that possibly could translate into
a new border security measurement policy.

The homeland security secretary said "illegal immigration attempts,
as measured by Border Patrol apprehensions … are less than one third
of what they were at their peak."

Coupled to "increases in seizures of cash, drugs and weapons …
Customs and Border Protection has begun the process of developing an
index … to comprehensively measure security along the Southwest
border" to "help guide future investments" and to "target resources
to more cost-effective programs that have the biggest impact on
improving border security."

"As part of this process," Napolitano explained, CBP has begun to
bring together "a group of independent, third-party stakeholders from
a diverse cross-section of critical areas of civic life -- to include
law enforcement officials, representatives from border-communities,
former members of Congress, experts from independent think-tanks --
to evaluate and refine this index as we move forward."

Napolitano said "this index will help us measure progress along the
Southwest border comprehensively and systematically, rather than by

"With the reliable and trusted measures of border security that we
are developing and validating with third-party experts, we can
provide an accurate picture of the state of the Southwest border …
and more precisely guide future border security investments,"
Napolitano told the committee, noting that "the border, as a whole,
is simply not the same as it was two years ago, or even one year ago
-- in terms of the manpower, resources, and technology."

Continuing, Napolitano said "… it is important to focus on how we can
best measure progress in the future. Significant improvement has
occurred since 2007 in all the major metrics used to describe
capabilities and results," everything from a significant yearly
declines in Border Patrol apprehensions and substantial increases in
currency, drugs and weapons.

But despite all of the measures of improvement, Napolitano said, "it
is clear we must also focus on more comprehensive and accurate
measurements of border security." And to that end, she said, "CBP is
developing … a new comprehensive index that will more holistically
represent what is happening at the border and allow us to measure
progress … That is why CBP is creating a new comprehensive index
drawing on data gathered both from their own operations as well as
from third parties."

This index, or BCI, would take into account traditional measures such
as apprehensions and contraband seizures, state and local crime
statistics on border-related criminal activity and overall crime
index reporting. It's also expected to incorporate indicators of the
impact of illegal cross-border activity on the quality of life in the
border region.

And, it may also "include calls from hospitals to report suspected
illegal aliens, traffic accidents involving illegal aliens or
narcotics smugglers, rates of vehicle theft and numbers of abandoned
vehicles, impacts on property values and other measures of economic
activity and environmental impacts," Napolitano added. "These new
measures are also critical to evaluating existing resources and
guiding future federal investments in personnel, technology, and
infrastructure. They are key to determining how best to apply limited
resources to gain the most impact on border security."

Despite DHS's clear success in recent years in securing the Southwest
border, not everyone believes the Southwest border is as secure as it
can, or should, be, and that much, much more still needs to be done.

"Any concept of an acceptable level [of illegal migration] is bogus
on its face when false numbers are being used," said former veteran
Border Patrol agent, G. Alan Ferguson, vice chairman of the National
Association of Former Border Patrol Officers. "DHS has painted a lie
that the border is secure, that there are fewer coming [across the
border] … they keep coming."

A veteran CIA operations officer who served in law enforcement on the
Southwest border and conducts counter-cartel training, said any DHS
effort to establish metrics that are linked to a policy that would
accept a certain level of illegal migration "is more smoke and
mirrors from DHS." He said Border Patrol is "only catching a
percentage of the illegals. How many they missed isn't known, but
[is] assumed to be substantial. I think in recent years there have
been several attempts to come up with a figure, but at present I
don't trust any numbers coming out of … DHS."

During hearings this month before his panel, Senate Homeland Security
Committee Chairman, Tom Carper (D-Del.), said "illegal immigration
has dramatically decreased" and "some experts estimate that more
undocumented immigrants now leave the United States each year than
enter unlawfully. Border Patrol apprehensions of undocumented
immigrants -- our best current measure -- are at their lowest level
in decades … I believe that we can attribute a lot of this success to
the security gains that we have made [that] deter people from
crossing the border ..."

"Having said all that," Carper said, "we [still] need to refine and
strengthen the metrics we use to determine how secure our borders and
Ports of Entry are to ensure that our security efforts are both
effective and as cost-efficient as possible. This is especially
necessary when budgets are tight, as they are today. We simply cannot
afford to keep ramping up resources for the border at the rate we
have in the past. We must be strategic with our investments -- and we
can be."

Carper said he's heard from "a number of frontline agents" who told
him "that we need to focus our efforts on giving them technologies
and tools that can serve as force multipliers. This includes a wide
range of cameras, sensors and radars that can be mounted on trucks or
put on fixed towers to help the Border Patrol deploy its agents more
efficiently. More aerial surveillance assets, including blimps and
aircraft such as the C-206 are also needed to help the Border Patrol
identify people crossing the border illegally and track them until
agents can catch them."

Presumably, any "baseline" or other "metrics" DHS eventually uses to
measure border security will depend upon full implementation of
Border Patrol's new five-year national border security strategy and
deployment of the Integrated Fixed Tower multi-sensor network system.

"We also need to ensure that the investments we have already made
are fully utilized, and not wasted," Carper added, saying, "I was
surprised, and frankly disappointed, to learn that the Border Patrol
has four drones deployed in Arizona but only has the resources to fly
two of them -- and even then they cannot fly them every day of the

Carper further observed "that a lot of the smuggling seen on the
southern border is being pushed to the Ports of Entry," but that
"These border crossings have received far less attention and
resources than the Border Patrol over the past decade, but they are
just as important to our security and economy."

"Ultimately, I hope that we can help the Department of Homeland
Security be so effective at securing the border that we can begin
shifting our resources towards staffing and modernizing our Ports of


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