“There are a series of pieces,” Ms. Meissner said. A comprehensive strategy “may already be there, but you can’t tell because there is no goal.”
She said the first step should be to define “secure.”
Congress has asked for operational control, which it considers the “prevention of all unlawful entries into the United States,” including terrorists, illegal immigrants and drugs.
But Miss Napolitano and other department officials say the goal is to keep illegal crossing and smuggling to a “manageable” level.
David V. Aguilar, deputy commissioner for Customs and Border Protection and former Border Patrol chief, said the government’s strategy is pretty simple: Mitigate the risk at the border, reduce that risk and expand control across the border.
He said doing that includes a mix of technology, personnel and enforcement that stretches beyond just the immediate border region and relies heavily on a risk assessment that will vary from area to area.
The government is working to collect data on who and what is coming across the border without being caught immediately, Mr. Aguilar said, but it’s unclear when that data will be available.
“We will have to be constantly adjusting,” Mr. Aguilar said. He added that U.S. authorities also take a close look at intelligence and data from Mexico, including the numbers of people traveling to well-known smuggling staging areas and the amount of bed space at guesthouses where migrants often stay before being smuggled across the border.
Illegal border crossers have dropped to the lowest levels since the 1970s, and seizures of illegal drugs coming north and cash and weapons heading south have increased.
But jobs in the U.S. have been scarce during one of the worst recessions since the Great Depression, and local and state authorities have increased efforts to make living in certain communities uncomfortable for illegal immigrants.
In a tense back and forth during Miss Napolitano’s Judiciary Committee testimony, Mr. Cornyn contended that more needs to be done at the border.
“Sustaining our current effort means that about a half a million people coming across the border here are detained,” Mr. Cornyn said.
The fear of what could be unleashed next from Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s 4-year-old war against the drug cartels has border-state officials nervous.
So far, about 35,000 people have been killed, including several dozen Americans. A recent report suggested about a quarter-million Mexicans have been displaced from their homes and about a quarter of those have come to the United States.View Entire Story
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