Monday, April 22, 2013



Note: Have some real doubts about most of this one. Would estimate
that less than 50% are stopped. Last couple months without data of
how many picked up, perhaps much less. AZMEX ACTIVITY reports vs.
info released on numbers apprehended.

Under pressure, Border Patrol now counts getaways
Source: United States News
Originally published: Apr 21, 2013 - 11:42 am

CAMPO, Calif. (AP) - Richard Gordon is one of the Border Patrol's
best at spotting the smallest human traces in pursuit of people who
enter the U.S. illegally from Mexico: dusty footprints, torn cobwebs,
broken twigs, overturned pebbles.

It's a skill he has sharpened over the last 16 years in the craggy,
shrub-covered mountains east of San Diego and one that is taking on
new importance as gauging border security has emerged as a potential
stumbling block to an overhaul of the U.S. immigration system.

With lawmakers demanding more measures of border security and
assurances that massive spending increases on enforcement yield
results, Gordon's skill, known as "sign-cutting," will likely get
greater focus because it is the Border Patrol's dominant technique to
count those who escape capture.

It's not the new cameras, sensors and airborne radars.

"You can have all the technology but we're still back to sign-
cutting," said Gordon, 46, who works in the same sparsely populated
area where he grew up hunting deer and quail. "It's tried, and it's
true, and it works."

There's no question it works to find hikers, but its effectiveness at
tracking how many escape agents' grasp is more open to debate.

A recent Government Accountability Office report cites Border Patrol
data from fiscal 2011, the latest available, that 61 percent of
estimated illegal crossings on the southern border resulted in
capture, 23 percent turn back to Mexico and 16 percent got away.

Of the 85,467 who got away, 70,980 (83 percent) were counted by sign-
cutting, with nearly all the rest from cameras and plain sightings.

Despite such precise tallies, Border Patrol Chief Mike Fisher said
sign-cutting "is not an exact science." Even the most skilled
trackers make educated guesses and, as the GAO noted, counting has
been inconsistent.

"We get better every day," but the agency doesn't know with pinpoint
accuracy the number of border crossers and what happened to them,
said Fisher, who issued a directive in September to ensure that the
more than 21,000 agents under his command are consistent in how they

The implications for immigration reform are potentially significant
as lawmakers seek assurances that the border is secure before
millions are allowed to legally remain in the country.

The Border Patrol has been judged almost solely by its number of
arrests, which are hovering near 40-year lows. Apprehension figures
are unquestionably accurate but have limited value in assessing
border security.

A Senate bill introduced last week sets a goal that 90 percent of
illegal crossings from Mexico in high-traffic areas result in arrest
or a turn-back. One key possible point of contention is how much
weight to give to turnarounds, which are mainly tallied by plain

The Border Patrol takes credit for them, but others note they may
succeed on a second try after waiting a few hours or trying another

"The fact that they weren't apprehended isn't necessarily a bad
thing," Fisher said in an interview. "The fact that they didn't
continue their entry is, overarching from our strategy, what we're
trying to prevent."

Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations,
told a congressional panel last month that lawmakers should avoid
putting too much emphasis on the numbers because it is unknown how
many people the Border Patrol misses altogether, failing to find any
traces. He also warned about a potential for agents to game numbers
to hit targets.

But Doris Meissner, the top immigration official under former
President Bill Clinton, said Congress and the GAO will scrutinize the
numbers closely to make sure they are credible, as airborne radar
gets more sophisticated.

"They're going to want to know these are not funny numbers," she said.

The Border Patrol has been experimenting with airborne radar to count
getaways. A trial run in a 150-square-mile stretch of Arizona found
about 1,870 were caught and about 1,960 got away from Oct. 1 through
Jan. 17, according to a senior Customs and Border Protection official
who spoke on condition of anonymity because results have not been
made public.

U.S. authorities play down the significance of the radar results,
first reported by the Los Angeles Times, saying the technology is
promising but flawed.

For now, sign-cutting is the main tool.

Gordon seems to find clues everywhere: a pebble with moist dirt
facing the sun to suggest it was recently overturned; backpack fibers
stuck on a barbed wire fence; fallen leaves. In off-hours, he looks
for clues about how many people stepped on his driveway or came
before him on a walking trail.

He examines each sign to determine its age. He knows a cloverleaf
curls immediately after it falls. He can tell how quickly a trampled
blade of grass returns to its natural height and how fast a broken
tree limb turns brittle.

Around the clock, agents lay fresh tire tracks on dirt roads that hug
the border, recording the times to help determine the age of each new
set of footprints.

Smugglers have become adept at covering their tracks, ordering
migrants to tie blankets over the soles of their shoes to avoid
leaving sharp footprints. The last person in the group may carry a
jug of dirt to sprinkle over any traces. Some migrants walk backward
to leave an impression that they turned back to Mexico. At night,
migrants walk on paved roads to avoid leaving prints, a trick called

The best hours to track are early morning, when sunlight casts a long
shadow, and under a flashlight's evening glare.

Gordon began patrolling a highway checkpoint in Southern California
in 1990 and, seven years later, transferred to Campo, where his
father also gained a reputation as an expert Border Patrol tracker.
Unlike urban stretches of the 1,954-mile border with Mexico that are
crowded with houses, agents must learn quickly to read tracks in the
parched, desolate valleys of oak and shrub.

Gordon, who is still fit enough to hustle through thick brush with
his chest pressed to the ground, is second-in-command in a station
that employs about 400 agents to scour 400 square miles. He captured
a group of 76 when illegal crossings near the station peaked about 10
years ago. Until about five years ago, the station often made 100
arrests a day.

Illegal crossings slowed to a trickle since the Border Patrol
responded to the 2009 assassination of a Campo-based agent by
flooding the area with agents and cameras. It isn't unusual for the
station to go shifts without making any arrests, a luxury the station
chief says has allowed agents to pursue groups of only two or three
people over days and sharpen their tracking skills.

When someone is captured, agents scour the area in widening circles
until they feel confident that they caught everyone in the group or
know how many got away. One obvious sign of a getaway is when a set
of footprints ends in a well-known staging area for smugglers to pick
up migrants in cars.

When migrants are caught, a supervisor typically makes the call on
when to count a getaway. "There is nothing scientific about this,"
Gordon says. "Some people are better at it than others."


Gosar, Horne tour border; call Yuma Sector a 'success'
April 20, 2013 9:18 PM
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U.S. Congressman Paul Gosar and Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne
were in the Yuma area Saturday to learn more about border issues
facing the community.

"Immigration reform starts with border security," Gosar said. "Yuma
has proven we can control the border. Before we talk about mass
amnesty and other notions, we need to mirror and duplicate what Yuma
has done to secure the border. We have the technology. We have the
dedicated professionals. All we need is the will to get this done."

Yuma County Sheriff Leon Wilmot guided Horne along the border to
highlight the issues encountered by border communities like Yuma on a
daily basis.

"You can't make decisions on what a border county needs unless you
have actually been here (to) see it," Wilmot said. "He gets it, and
that is important."

The experience was "very educational," Horne said. "I think that it
is important for us to understand what is happening here because in
2006, President Bush decided to make an example of the Yuma Sector.
Until then there were hundreds of thousands of people crossing and
they cut that back by 96 percent down to (about) 7,500 last year. It
has ranged between 5,000 and 8,000 for several years."

The Yuma sector "is an example of a spectacular success," Horne
continued. "In the Tucson Sector, there are still hundreds of
thousands of people crossing, and so if President Obama would do in
the Tucson Sector what president Bush did in the Yuma Sector, we
could get operational control of the border here in Arizona and then
hopefully in the other states as well."

The Republican Congressman representing Arizona's District 4 and the
Attorney General also received a border briefing at Marine Corps Air
Station Yuma to better understand the new technology available for
border security and safety.

The two participated in the briefing together to provide an example
of cooperation between the federal and state governments.

"I think what it shows is a cooperative venture," Gosar said.
"Anytime that the federal government can work with the state – I'm a
10th Amendment kind of guy – so I want to see that and I think that
is what the American public is demanding … to work with states and
local communities."

Both men hope they have created a precedent other federal and state
government members will duplicate.

"We were talking earlier about how one of the reasons that things
have worked so well in the Yuma Sector is that the different groups
work together well," Horne said. "We need to work together as well."

Wilmot was pleased to meet with the politicians and to share his
concerns with them.

"It is promising they are interested enough to get an on-hand, on-
scene pulse of what happens in Yuma County and the impacts we are
seeing," Wilmot said. "How can you build any sort of immigration
reform from somebody that has never been here or experienced what we
have experienced on a daily basis? It is important for them to
actually know first hand what we are dealing with."

During his time with Gosar and Horne, Wilmot spoke about the unique
budget issues the Yuma County Sheriff's Office faces when housing
illegal immigrants for prosecution.

Of particular concern is the amount of money the federal government
reimburses YCSO through the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program
(SCAAP), a formula grant program that provides financial assistance
to states and localities for incarcerating "undocumented criminal

"It cost us $1.7 million last year, and the federal government only
reimbursed us 6 cents on the dollar," Wilmot said. "That is not how
it is supposed to run. We are not supposed to be picking up the slack
from the federal government in that aspect."

Wilmot encouraged Gosar to bring up the issues with other members of
Congress when he gets back to Capitol Hill.

"That was one of the things I asked him to take back with him,
because our President has zeroed out that account again and
unfortunately every year we have to waste time to go back and explain
to him why it is important SCAAP continues to be funded," Wilmot said.

"It continuously goes down every year, unfortunately. It is a burden
he has to pay for. We can't continue to fulfill that obligation. I
have to take care of my community and those other criminals out
there. Why are they allowing this to happen?"

Wilmot also urged the Congressman to do his part to ensure Operation
Stonegarden continues to be funded.

Operation Stonegarden is a federal grant program administered by the
Federal Emergency Management Agency as part of the State Homeland
Security Grant Program to provide funding to state, local, and tribal
law enforcement agencies to enhance their capabilities "to jointly
secure U.S. borders and territories."

Grants are used for additional law enforcement personnel, overtime
pay, and travel and lodging for deployment of state and local
personnel to increase the presence of law enforcement along the border.

"If they take that funding away, we are going to lose that
operational high visibility that we have now, and I don't want to see
that happen," Wilmot said.

"You need to continue the funding of not only border infrastructure
and technology, but also your law enforcement and boots on the
ground, because that is your deterrent right there — that high
profile presence."

Gosar also spoke briefly about the mandatory unpaid furloughs Border
Patrol agents, until recently, had been facing because of the
implementation of sequestration, which he voted for.

"We want to have border security," he said. "Congress is going to
have to find the muscle to look back into the budget and find the
necessary resources to help secure the border from our Sheriff's
Office to the Border Patrol to all the agencies that work together."

Gosar gave high praise to the current state of border security in the
Yuma Sector, and said he will take the knowledge he has learned here
back with him to Washington.

"We like the way people work here where you have a Sheriff working
with the military, working with the Border Patrol. It is very
simplified. They work together collaboratively. That is what you want
to see. There is no infighting. It works wonderfully."

Chris McDaniel can be reached at or 539-6849.

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