Border Security -- What Works, What Doesn't


By:  John Carter
Date: April 11, 2012
Location: Unknown

In 1986 the United States suffered from millions of illegal aliens who had infiltrated our largely unguarded southern border, with hundreds of thousands more pouring in each year. Most were folks looking for work, but some were drug dealers and criminals.

"Comprehensive immigration reform" was touted as the only realistic solution to the problem. We were falsely told our only option was between the extremes of mass deportation or the granting of amnesty for virtually all the illegal aliens in the country followed by creation of a "more reasonable" immigration and guest worker program to reduce illegal immigration in the future.

So we passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986,granting legal status and a pathway to citizenship to 2.8 million illegal aliens in the country.

Less remembered is that Congress has passed multiple additional targeted amnesties for illegal immigrants since 1986. The 1994 245i temporary rolling amnesty plan gave legal status to another 578,000; 1.1 million illegal aliens from Central American and Haiti were granted amnesty in 1997 and 1998 respectively; an additional 400,000 late filers from the 1986 amnesty plan were approved in 2000; then another 900,000 illegal aliens received amnesty that same year under a renewed 245i plan.

To top things off, we are now allowing up to 1 million LEGAL immigrants per year into the United States -- more than all other nations on earth COMBINED.

How has it worked out?

There are now more than 12 million illegal aliens in America, with estimates of a million more pouring across the border each year. Phoenix is second only to Mexico City as the kidnapping capitol of the world. Outgunned and outnumbered American lawmen are being shot to death defending our border, and U.S. citizens are being murdered on their ranches by criminal aliens. Houston is on terror alert after radical Islamists with ties to Al Qaeda successfully infiltrated our Texas border, and smuggled across an estimated 200 Somali illegal aliens who have spread across the country and disappeared.

So now that there is solid empirical evidence that "comprehensive immigration reform" -- amnesty -- is an absolute failure and only makes matters incredibly worse, what do Democrats and the White House propose as a solution in 2010?

More "comprehensive immigration reform" -- amnesty.

The federal government under the past five Presidents has failed to secure the lawless southern border, or to enforce the law against those who have willfully broken it. If we are to remain a sovereign nation, we must secure our borders. The only question is how best to do so.

We don't need to speculate. We've had security problems with our southern border ever since we've had a southern border, and we know what works and what doesn't from experience. What has worked in every instance is a deployment of troops and security personnel in numbers comparable to what we have deployed on other troubled borders around the world.

The U.S. Army maintained dozens of active bases on the border with Mexico to combat Apache attacks, cross-border cattle raids, and general unrest until the close of the Geronimo campaign in 1886, after which around 50 camps and posts were decommissioned.

However, the Army remained as a safeguard against border lawlessness, with up to 30,000 troops including the famed 10thCavalry "Buffalo Soldiers" stationed at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, and other border posts.

The border turned increasingly deadly again after the Mexican Revolution of 1910 broke out, with American soldiers in the trenches outsideDouglas, Arizona in 1915 to block either of two opposing Mexican armies in the Battle of Agua Prieta from coming across the border.

Then when Mexican gunmen under Pancho Villa crossed our border in 1916 and killed 17 American civilians in a raid on Columbus, New Mexico, the U.S. Army under General Blackjack Pershing mounted the Mexican Expedition to restore order, taking a force of 12,000 American soldiers into Mexico itself for a year to destroy Villa's ability to mount future attacks across the border.

The U.S. Army battled Villa's army again in 1919, when 3,600 American troops defended El Paso after Villa's forces fired into the city from across the border in Juarez. U.S. infantry, cavalry, and artillery immediately counter-attacked into Juarez and beyond, routing Villa and his forces and permanently ending his threat to the United States. President Woodrow Wilson deployed a total of 100,000 U.S. Army and National Guard troops over the period to restore order -- and they did.

20,000 U.S. soldiers remained on border duty through the 1920's, allowing time for the U.S. Border Patrol to be formed in 1924 and gradually assume control of the border from the Army.

The Border Patrol does a great job maintaining order as long as they are given sufficient manpower for the job at hand. From the 1920's into the 1960's the job was primarily preventing illegal immigration, which was not the epidemic it is today.

When illegal immigration got out of hand in the 1950's at the close of the Bracero guest worker program, the Border Patrol alone was able to remove an estimated 100,000 illegal immigrants without military involvement.

Interestingly, at one point during that program, the Mexican government provided a bulwark against their workers entering the U.S. without a valid employment contract in order to ensure Mexican citizens received fair pay and working conditions. How Mexico City has changed over the years!

But with the advent of drug smuggling and mass illegal immigration starting in earnest in the 1960's, our Border Patrol has simply been overwhelmed. They do a phenomenal and professional job, they simply lack the manpower resources to secure 2,000 miles of border.

Based on over a century-and-a-half of border history, it is an indisputable fact that a sufficient deployment of an armed force will secure our border. How many is sufficient? There is existing data that answers that question.

Obviously the 100,000-man 1916 deployment under Blackjack Pershing would be enough, but research says that with modern technology and the improved infrastructure available today less than half that many would get the job done.

Our military is already re-engaged. Since 1989, the Department of Defense Joint Task Force-North (JTF North) -- a combined forcefrom all branches of our military -- has provided surveillance and control services in drug-interdiction efforts with our Border Patrol, DEA, ATF, and other law enforcement agencies operating along the border. (JTF North was formally JTF-6)

The Border Patrol has already demonstrated that with proper manpower the border can be secured, first in 1993 with Operation Hold the Line in El Paso, followed by Operation Gatekeeper in San Diego in 1994. In each demonstration project, the number of deployed agents was dramatically increased to man forward observation posts on the border, with each post in sight of the next, and with backup teams at the ready for pursuit and apprehension of illegal crossers. Wherever the mass deployments were conducted, illegal crossings virtually ceased.

When the Minuteman organization sent volunteers into the Arizona desert in 2005 as border watchers, wherever their volunteers were in place at the rate of around 6 per mile illegal crossings were eliminated, according to Border Patrol officers on the scene.

Taking all the data into consideration, a deployment of somewhere between 25-to-50,000 troops would secure our 2,000 mile southern border immediately. Cost estimates range around $3 billion per year, a small fraction of the current $78 billion taxpayer cost of illegal immigration, even after counting tax payments by illegal workers.

These manpower numbers are well within the range of similar current deployments. 28,000 U.S. troops are helping guard South Korea's 151-mile border with North Korea, and have been there since 1950. The U.S. Army is helping Iraq put a 45,000 man border force in place to patrol its 2,200 miles of border.

In homeland security missions, 70,000 troops were deployed for Hurricane Katrina by President Bush. President Obama has authorized 17,500 so far for the BP oil spill. Isn't the security of our own border as important as any of these missions?

President Bush gave lip service to the idea in 2008 for political purposes with his deployment of 6,000 National Guard for a year under Operation Jump Start. President Obama is doing the same with an even less-serious number of 1,200 National Guard this year. Our National Guardsmen performed their every assigned duty flawlessly, but under manpower and rules of engagement restrictions that made securing the border an impossibility. The Obama proposal is destined for the same results as the Bush deployment -- a photo op for the White House, with no improvement in border security.

The reason is well-defined in a 2007 Heritage Foundation report on securing the border with troops. There must be a sufficient number, and they must be deployed together as a massed force to be effective. A gradual buildup, or securing only targeted areas while other parts of the border are ignored, does not work.

We need 25,000 troops deployed immediately to stop the madness on our southern border. That figure probably needs to jump to around 50,000 for the long haul. After the border is absolutely secured against illegal entry, we can consider handing duties back to a greatly enhanced Border Patrol sector-by-sector as conditions permit.

The historical evidence and current data is indisputable. "Comprehensive Immigration Reform" will make our border less secure. A massed troop deployment will absolutely secure it.

In reality, the data is not necessary to recognize reality. People are coming across our border en masse illegally -- workers, drug dealers, human traffickers, and even potential terrorists in a time of war. What we do with illegal workers currently in our country has nothing to do with stopping that.

There is not a single Al-Qaeda terrorist or drug-cartel member that will decide that if we've made it easier to live and work in the U.S., they will give up war or drug-running across our southern border.

If our borders are left open, it really doesn't matter what we do about illegal immigration or guest workers, even at the extremes of mass deportation or blanket amnesty. If we kick out those here illegally without securing our borders, they will walk right back in. If we grant amnesty without securing our borders, tens of millions more will walk in expecting the same treatment, just as they did after the 1986 amnesty.

Congress need take no action. The President can simply order the deployment immediately as Commander-in-Chief and stop the anarchy on our southern border within a few weeks.

If the President fails to do so, our Governors are pre-authorized to request the Department of Defense pay for calling up the National Guard at the state level for homeland security duty. One would assume that Al-Qaeda terrorists infiltrating our borders and setting up shop in Houston and elsewhere would be considered a legitimate national security concern that should be defended against.

In terms of national security, illegal immigration is only a symptom. Our problem is our failure to secure our border for decades on end, through both Republican and Democrat Administrations and Congresses. A nation that cannot secure its borders cannot survive.

We know what works and what doesn't to achieve that end. Now we only need discover whether we have the political will to do it.

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