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Border securityNapolitano’s arguments about border security undermined by rise in arrests

Published 9 April 2013

As recently as last Thursday, DHS secretary Janet Napolitano said that border security is at its most robust in years. New numbers released on the same day tell a different story about activity on the border: arrests on the border are up 13 percent compared to this time last year, from 170,223 last year to 192,298 this year. Napolitano argues that arrests alone are not a reflection of how secure the border is, and that crime statistics in border regions – a better measure of border security, she says — are down from previous years.

DHS secretary Janet Napolitano attempts to explain report contradictions // Source: irib.ir

As recently as last Thursday, DHS secretary Janet Napolitano said that border security is at its most robust in years. “I can tell you having worked that border for 20 years; it is more secure now than it has ever been. Illegal apprehensions are at 40-year lows,” Napolitano told reporters last week in Houston.

Fox News reports however, that  new statistics released on the same day tell a different story about activity on the border.

Arrests on the border are up 13 percent compared to this time last year, from 170,223 last year to 192,298 this year.

Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) was quick react to Napolitano’s statements when he found out about the increase in arrests.

“There is no statistic, metric or evidence that the border is more secure than ever. I went out there for a couple days and found multiple spots where you can see trails of people coming in. They were still apprehending massive amounts of drugs out there, this is a very porous border,” Chaffetz told Fox News.

Stats show that in Texas, arrests in the Rio Grande Valley region are up 53 percent over the last six months, 22 percent in Laredo, and 24 percent in El Paso.

During the recession, border arrests declined as the economy went down and jobs became harder to acquire. Would-be illegal immigrants either stayed home or went home, and critics charged that the administration attributed the decrease in numbers to improved border security.

Now that the economy is bouncing back, arrests are up 25,000 from last year, meaning that more people are trying and getting into the United States. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), 40 percent of the immigrants who make it into the United States from the border are never caught.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) says the agency is using every available resource to make sure the problem areas of the border become secure.

“Under this administration, DHS has dedicated historic levels of personnel, technology, and resources to the Southwest border. CBP has more than doubled the size of the U.S. Border Patrol since 2004. In FY (Fiscal Year) 2012, CBP employed over 21,300 Border Patrol agents, keeping staffing levels along the border at an all-time high. Additionally, CBP continues to deploy proven, effective surveillance technology tailored to the operational requirements along the highest trafficked areas of the Southwest Border,” Bill Brooks, the Southwest Border Branch chief with CBP Public Affairs, said in a statement to Fox News.

The current debate over what border security exactly means is tied to the debate over immigration reform, and this may have been  the reason why DHS was reluctant to release the latest numbers on arrests to news organizations. Repeated requests for the data by Fox News were ignored, although in the past the numbers were routinely released to news organizations.

Critics believe Napolitano is trying to change the notion of border security to something that does not focus on the number of arrests being made. Napolitano believes that arrests alone are not a reflection of how secure the border is, and that crime statistics in border regions are down from previous years.

“By all the different measures one looks at on the border, they’re all trending in the right direction and strongly so,” Napolitano told reporters last Thursday. “When you actually look at the numbers it’s a record of manpower and technology and by the way, total air coverage that we’ve never had before. So in terms of the resources that have been deployed here, its’ more than ever.”

Some in Congress do not agree.

“Texans — and all Americans — would appreciate a healthy dose of reality from Secretary Napolitano. She should admit the border is far from secure and commit to implementing a clear metric to measure security, something her department has not done since 2010 and continues to resist,” Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) told Fox News.

Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona), a member of the bi-partisan group of senators currently working on the immigration bill, says defining border security is difficult.

“We’ve tended to hear from the Department of Homeland Security that basically it’s ‘mission accomplished’ at the border and that’s just not the case,” Flake said. “I think all of us concede that we have a better situation on the border than we’ve had in past. And in certain sectors, we really still have a troublesome situation. A lot more people getting through than we thought.”