- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 8, 2002

One indisputable conclusion from reporter Jerry Seper's recent five-part series in The Washington Times, "Border War: On the front line against illegal immigration," is that the nation's border-enforcement strategy along the 1,940-mile U.S.-Mexico border clearly is not working. Since the federal government implemented a new strategy in 1994 focusing on deterrence, detection and arrest, the illegal alien population in the United States has increased from an estimated five million to between nine and 11 million. As many as two million illegal aliens per year succeed in their efforts to penetrate the U.S.-Mexico border without being caught and expelled.
As Mr. Seper reported, the 1994 deterrence strategy increased resources at strategic locations along the Southwest border, seeking to deter illegal activity where it had once been plentiful. The strategy was intended to reroute illegal aliens and drug smugglers who are responsible for supplying 80 percent of the cocaine and 50 percent of the heroin consumed in the United States to more remote border areas where harsh terrain and weather would make illegal activity far more difficult.
While the strategy has succeeded in shoring up the border near San Diego, El Paso and other strategic locations, it has "created a funnel into Arizona," observes Rep. Jim Kolbe, whose district covers large border areas in southern Arizona. Mr. Seper reports that the Arizona-Mexico border is "now nearly in chaos." In a meeting with the editorial board of The Washington Times, Mr. Kolbe noted that the new policy has confirmed "the law of unintended consequences": Men who once returned home are no longer doing so. Instead, they are sending for their wives and children, who are perishing in increasing numbers in the unforgiving desert. Meanwhile, the policy has had the further unintended effect of denuding entire Mexican communities of adult males with devastating results.
Luis Barker, chief of the Border Patrol's El Paso sector, claims that the new strategy is a "work in progress." Eventually, he hopes to have "full coverage all along the border." The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), which currently oversees the Border Patrol, plans to increase the number of Border Patrol agents along the U.S.-Mexico border from 9,000 presently to 14,000 by 2010. However, several law-enforcement authorities and immigration analysts believe at least 20,000 agents will be needed. Even that may not be nearly enough. Noting the failure so far to reduce the flow northward and all-too-cognizant of the increase in tragic deaths, one veteran agent who doubts the long-term success of the strategy told Mr. Seper, "These people will stop at nothing to get into the United States," where economic opportunities dwarf those available in Mexico.
Meanwhile, other immigration policy actions, most notably another amnesty program, may loom on the horizon. Amnesty, which rewards the very people who have violated America's laws at the expense of those who are patiently waiting in line for legal entry, has been tried and has failed. Before such a policy is pursued again, the Congress and the public must come to terms with the means and the costs of successfully controlling the border. Achieving that goal is and must remain the beginning of any immigration policy.
One option that must be rejected out of hand is the use of the military to patrol the border. Given the drug cartels' ability to infiltrate cultures of all sorts, our armed forces must be protected from the inevitable taint of drug-related corruption. However achieved, gaining control of the U.S.-Mexico border will almost certainly cost much more than is currently spent. Where will the money come from? A surtax? Increasing the deficit? Taking the money from other programs? Hard decisions need to be made.
Ideally, of course, the long-term solution will be for Mexico to dramatically increase economic opportunities for its citizens. However, that is decades away, if ever. In the meantime, Americans need to decide what burdens they are willing to bear in order to eliminate the chaos that reigns along the southern border. As Mr. Seper's series makes unmistakably clear, now is not too soon to begin addressing our worsening border problems.


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