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Is There a ‘Security Crisis’ at the U.S.-Mexico Border? Here Are the Facts

Should more be done to secure the border?

by Countable | 1.8.19

What’s the story?

  • President Donald Trump will address the nation tonight, where he's expected to "explain to the American people that we have a humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border," according to Vice President Mike Pence.
  • Pence's comments come as the partial government shutdown reaches the 18-day mark. Trump is demanding $5.7 billion in federal funding to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have rejected providing any money for a barrier.
  • Is there a "security crisis" at the U.S.-Mexico border? We take a look at the facts.

What about recent claims of terrorists coming through the southern border?

  • White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on "Fox News Sunday" that in 2017, "nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists come into our country illegally, and we know that our most vulnerable point of entry is at our southern border."
  • However, a State Department report found "no credible evidence of any terrorist coming across the border from Mexico.”
  • And on Monday, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway confirmed that most of the nearly 4,000 "known or suspected terrorists" were found at airports.
  • Todd Bensman, an analyst at the Center for Immigration Studies - which favors less immigration and stronger defenses against terrorist infiltration - wrote on the center's website Monday:
"I can say definitively that the number of terrorist suspects arriving at the southern border or en route never came anywhere close to 3,000, let alone 4,000 in any single year of my state government intelligence service."

Facts about the border

  • The U.S.-Mexico border stretches for nearly 2,000 miles from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean and touches the states of California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. 
  • There is currently a barrier that blocks pedestrians and vehicles along 653 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border. It’s made of barbed wire, chain link, post-and-rail, and wire mesh.
  • Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) also utilizes thousands of cameras and underground sensors, boats, aircraft, drones, and agents to monitor the boundary.
  • With 19,887 agents in FY2017, CBP is one of the largest law-enforcement agencies in the U.S.
  • 1,317 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border lacks fencing—however, the Rio Grande river forms a natural border along 1,254 of those miles.

  • According to a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) internal report, building 1,250 miles more miles of fencing would cost $21.6 billion.
  • The majority of drugs trafficked into the U.S. are smuggled through legal ports of entry, not snuck through the desert.

What has been built since Trump took office? What does he want?

  • Since Trump took office, some additional “steel bollard wall" has been erected on the border.
  • CBP referred to bollard barriers as "fencing" during the Obama administration, according to a memo. They are now being considered “wall.”
  • Construction has begun for 40 miles of “steel bollard wall” in California and Texas, at a cost of $292 million. 22 miles are complete and an additional 18 miles should be finished in May 2019, according to CBP.

Facts about unauthorized immigrants

  • The unauthorized immigrant population in the U.S. is at a 10-year low.
  • The total number of unauthorized immigrants nabbed at the border last year held steady at around 521,000—a slight decline from 2017, and far less than the high-water mark of the 1990s and 2000s when a million apprehensions a year was common.
  • Statistics provided by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) show that sectors where fencing and walls have been built have seen a decrease in unauthorized immigration:

  • Overall, apprehensions of unauthorized immigrants at the southwest border dropped about 80 percent from 2000 to 2015.
  • However, CBP cites a number of factors for the decline. For the Tucson sector, for instance - where apprehensions are down nearly 90 percent - CBP credits an "increase in manpower," technological upgrades, and changes in "infrastructure" (which include fencing and vehicle barriers).

Have there been terrorists coming across the border?

  • 41 people on the Terrorist Screening Database were encountered at the Mexican border from Oct. 1, 2017, to March 31, 2018. 35 of them were U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. (At the Canadian border, CBP stopped 91 people listed in the database, including 41 who were not U.S. citizens or residents.)
  • A study by the libertarian CATO Institute found that from 1975 through 2017, seven people who entered the U.S. illegally from "special interest" countries (states at least loosely tied to terrorism) were convicted of planning attacks on U.S. soil. None of the seven crossed from Mexico.

What do you think?

Trump is demanding funding for his U.S.-Mexico border wall, increasing the chances for a partial government shutdown.

Are you concerned about border security? Should Democrats agree to more funding? Should Congress fund Trump’s “big beautiful wall”? Take action and tell your reps, then share your thoughts below.

—Josh Herman


(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / chapin31)

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