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A Border Patrol agent checks vehicles for illegal immigrants and contraband at a roadside checkpoint June 1, 2010 near Sasabe, Arizona.
Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S.-Mexico border has been the epicenter of the federal government’s beef-up of security and immigration enforcement. The Border Patrol now says it’s time to shift its approach.
It’s been 87 years since the U.S. Border Patrol was founded. What started out as watchmen on horseback preventing illegal border crossings, has evolved into a 22,000 agent-strong effort that fights both illegal immigration and the threat of terrorism.
Following the attacks by Al-Qaeda in 2001, the number of Border Patrol agents nearly doubled in seven years. Since 2006, $4.4 billion have been spent on infrastructure and technology. But have the manpower and resources been worthwhile? Yes, says Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher, but there’s more work to do.
“Apprehensions in and of themselves really tell us anything in terms of the extent to which we’re being successful and/or levels of border security. What is interesting in what we’re doing now is taking a look at those apprehensions only as a starting point to really understand the rate of recidivism, the rate of re-apprehensions in different locations, and doing the comparatives to make sure we’re having a better sense of what is happening. Not just whether the apprehensions went up or whether they went down.”
Illegal border crossings by migrants are at a 40-year low, and Fisher says this is prompting a change in his agency’s priorities. The Border Patrol’s new strategic plan will focus on identifying repeat border crossers, especially criminals and former deportees. There will also be a greater effort to fight corruption within the agency itself.