A coalition of Texas border mayors, county executives and economic development leaders said on Thursday the federal government has spent nearly $90 billion over the past decade to secure the Southwest border with no better than mixed results.
In a report, the Texas Border Coalition (TBC), which describes itself as the “collective voice” of 2.5 million people along the Texas-Mexico border region and economically disadvantaged counties from El Paso to Brownsville, says Mexican drug cartels continue to enjoy commercial success, smuggling more drugs than ever into the United States through the nation’s legal border crossings.
“Our national success depends on defining and executing a strategy to defeat the cartels attacking our nation,” said Eagle Pass, Texas, Mayor and TBC Chairman Ramsey Cantu. “Without a strategy, America will continue to lose the border security war to the better financed, equipped, more mobile and agile drug cartels.”
While apprehension rates are up to 90 percent for illegal immigrants seeking to cross the frontier between designated U.S.-Mexico border crossings, the coalition — citing a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) briefing on the costs and benefits of the Defense Department’s role in securing the Southwest border — said there is “no comprehensive southwest border security strategy” and the National Guard’s role has been “ad hoc” at best.
The border security policies examined in the TBC report fall under two broad categories: administrative and congressional. Administrative policies include Department of Homeland Security focused tactics, while congressional policies center on building more fences and walls, and whether to end environmental protections for public lands on the Southwest and Northern borders.
The TBC report, titled “Without Strategy: America’s Border Security Blunders Facilitate and Empower Mexico’s Drug Cartels,” suggests that to achieve national security, the U.S. needs well-built, equipped and staffed border crossings that can interdict lawbreakers and facilitate legitimate trade and travel. It said only 28 percent of “major violators” — meaning someone involved in criminal activity that would result in arrest — attempting to enter the U.S. at the border crossings are apprehended.
“To continue to fight the border security war where it has been won [between the border crossings] and to continue to surrender the war where we are losing [at the border crossings] is to threaten our national and border security and resign our nation to defeat,” Mr. Cantu said.
As the U.S. spent $90 billion seeking to secure the Southwest border, the TPC report said Mexican cartels have continued to smuggle cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine through the legal border crossings in California and South Texas, and marijuana between border crossings in remote areas of Arizona.
GAO officials have estimated that America will need 6,000 new inspection personnel and $6 billion to properly upgrade border facilities. Yet, according to the TBC report, Homeland Security has “chosen to ignore these recommendations,” with budget forecasts offering no new funding for border security infrastructure and personnel.
“We don’t expect Congress and the administration to wave a fiscal wand and achieve full funding levels overnight,” said McAllen, Texas, Mayor Richard Cortez, whose community is located five miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. “But if there are additional resources to be allocated this year, they should go to the legal border crossings as a first priority.”