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Public Statements

Making Emergency Supplemental Appropriations For Fiscal Year 2010

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BYRD. Madam President, there are those in the Congress who like to just talk about the need to secure our borders. I have actually done something about securing the borders. In 2005, I authored an amendment with broad, bipartisan support, which initiated a comprehensive effort to secure our borders. Since I became chairman of the Senate Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee in 2007, I have continued that effort. As a result, there are more Border Patrol agents, more technology, more border infrastructure, more detention capacity, and more investigative capacity dedicated to securing our borders than ever before.

This investment has produced results. The numbers of aliens being deported, especially aliens convicted of crimes, has grown significantly. The era of catch and release has ended. The recession and increased enforcement has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of illegal aliens coming into this country. Violence on the United States side of the border is down.

There is more to be accomplished, particularly as drug violence in Mexico grows, but as a result of investments made over the last 5 years, the Department of Homeland Security has received significant assets to address this problem.

Deportations have greatly increased from 211,098 in 2003 to between 230,000 and 390,000 annually for the past 3 years. Homeland Security is on track to remove 400,000 aliens this year, including 150,000 convicted criminal aliens.

The Department of Homeland Security, DHS, has more ``boots on the ground'' at the border than ever before. Today, the Border Patrol is better staffed than at any time in its 85-year history, having nearly doubled the number of agents from approximately 10,000 in 2004 to more than 20,000 today.

In 2006, DHS opened the first Border Enforcement Security Task Force, BEST, in Laredo, TX. BESTs are law enforcement task forces that combine Federal, State, local, and international personnel to tackle border crime. The BEST model has proven extremely effective not only at interdicting illegal activity but also at building criminal cases that lead to high-value prosecutions. There currently are 17 BESTs, including 3 in Arizona, 1 in Mexico City, and the President's fiscal year 2011 budget requests funds to open 3 more. Over the past year, DHS doubled the number of agents working on the BESTs in the southwest border region.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, Office of Investigations criminal arrests have increased from 14,077 in fiscal year 2002 to 32,512 in fiscal year 2009. Customs and Border Protection Office of Field Operations criminal arrests--those apprehended at the ports of entry--have increased from 15,820 in fiscal year 2002 to 38,964 in fiscal year 2009.

This year, DHS will finish constructing nearly all of the 652 miles of border fencing along the southwest border the Border Patrol has determined is required. As of March 2010, all 298.5 miles of vehicle fencing have been completed, and only 5.7 miles of pedestrian fencing remain to be constructed. This comes on top of $260 million the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided for border security technology and improved tactical communications equipment.

According to the Border Patrol, the number of miles of the southwest border under effective control by the Border Patrol has increased from 241 miles in October 2005 to 742 in October 2009.

DHS Secretary Napolitano announced last month that DHS is redeploying $50 million of Recovery Act funding originally allocated for SBInet to other tested, commercially available security technology along the southwest Border, including mobile surveillance, thermal imaging devices, ultralight detection, backscatter units, mobile radios, cameras and laptops for pursuit vehicles, and remote video surveillance system enhancements.

The level of detention beds for illegal aliens funded by Congress has steadily increased over the past 5 years from only 18,500 beds in fiscal year 2005 to 33,400 beds today. Since fiscal year 2009, Congress has mandated that ICE maintain 33,400 detention beds. And the average length of stay has dropped from 40.4 days in fiscal year 2004 to 31.2 days in fiscal year 2009.

The number of illegal aliens detained has increased from 256,842 in fiscal year 2006 to 383,524 in fiscal year 2009. The total number of illegal aliens removed has nearly doubled since fiscal year 2003 from 211,098 to 405,662 in fiscal year 2009.

The number of fugitive operations teams has been increased to 104 this fiscal year from 51 in fiscal year 2007. On April 30, 2010, ICE announced it had apprehended 596 criminal aliens in a targeted operation in the southeastern United States. On April 15, 2010, ICE arrested 47 individuals charged with operating shuttle bus services in southern Arizona which brought aliens who had recently entered the country illegally from border towns to Phoenix for further transport to the interior of the United States.

Since March 2009, Customs and Border Protection--CBP--and ICE have seized $85.7 million in illicit cash along the southwest border, an increase of 14 percent over the same period during the previous year. This includes more than $29.7 million in illicit cash seized heading southbound into Mexico--a 39-percent increase over the same period during the previous year.

During the same period, CPB and ICE together seized 1,425 illegal firearms, which represents a 29 percent rise over the same period in the previous year. At the same time, CBP and ICE seized 1.65 million kilograms of drugs along the southwest border, an overall increase of 15 percent.

The Department of Homeland Security estimates that in Arizona, the number of illegal immigrants in that State declined to 460,000 last year from a high of 550,000 and continues to drop.

Contrary to popular perception, suggestions of spillover violence from Mexico have been exaggerated. While violence and drug trafficking organization-related murders are up in Juarez, Mexico, El Paso, TX--directly across the border--was ranked the second safest major city in the United States by CQ Press in November 2009. The assistant police chief of Nogales, AZ, recently stated, ``We have not, thank God, witnessed any spillover violence from Mexico. You can look at the crime stats. I think Nogales, Arizona, is one of the safest places to live in all of America.'' FBI Uniform Crime Reports and statistics provided by police agencies show that the crime rates in Nogales, Douglas, Yuma, and other Arizona border towns have remained essentially flat for the past decade. A May 2, 2010, article from actually was headlined ``Violence is not up on Arizona border despite Mexican drug war.'' The Border Patrol has reported that the March 2010 murder of Arizona rancher Robert Krentz is the only American murdered by a suspected illegal immigrant in at least a decade within the agency's Tucson sector, the busiest smuggling route among the Border Patrol's nine coverage regions along the U.S.-Mexican border.

There is still more to be accomplished. I am pleased that this week the President announced his intention to deploy up to 1,200 National Guardsmen on the southwest border. However, I oppose the amendments to add over $2 billion for border security, given that the amendments are offset with significant cuts in stimulus funding that will continue to create jobs in America. I will continue my efforts to further secure our borders.


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