NDN Blog

The Presidents Speech: A Note About "Operational Control" Along The United States Mexico Border

Some of the fact checks on the Presidents speech have gotten caught up on one particular metric which the President used to show progress along the border.  ABC's Political Punch has a piece up on the border security portion of the Presidents speech. The first fact they check is on the Presidents assertion that the border fence is complete:

1)“They wanted a fence,” the president said. “Well, that fence is now basically complete.”

ABC Fact Check:The president is referring to the fact that 649 miles of fencing have been completed out of 652 miles of fencing mandated by Congress. (Out of 1,969 miles of border with Mexico.) That is factually correct, according to a February 2011 study of the border by the Government Accountability Office.

This is all good so far, but then the fact checkers assert the following:

More to the point, the border remains quite porous.

The Border Patrol, per the GAO study, has achieved “varying levels of operational control for 873 of the nearly 2,000 southwest border miles at the end of fiscal year 2010…GAO’s preliminary analysis of the 873 border miles under operational control in 2010 showed that about 129 miles (15 percent) were classified as ‘controlled’ and the remaining 85 percent were classified as ‘managed.’”

Now this may get a bit wonky, but the above statement is somewhat misleading. Admittedly this is more of a nuance issue then anything else, but if you do not know what the actual definitions of "Operational Control" vs. "Managed" then the border does indeed sound porous, when it is in fact not... 

So according to that same GAO Report, Operational Control is the highest level of control a border sector can have. To be under operational control, the sector must show: Continuous detection and interdiction resources at the immediate border with high probability of apprehension upon entry.

Not all sectors of the border need to be under operational control, certainly it would be desirable but not necessary to produce the results borne out in the FBI Crime Statistics which show that crime rates on the border are down to all time lows.

In fact digging a bit deeper here the big story should be, and this is what the president was referencing yesterday, that 85 percent of the border is managed. In unpacking the quote referenced in the ABC article this statistic points to the broader reality along the border, while not secure it is certainly safer then it has ever been.

A "Managed Border Sector" means that the sector is: multi-tiered detection and interdiction resources are in place to fully implement the border control strategy with high probability of apprehension after entry.

This definition is nearly exactly the same level classification as the Operational definition, but given that there are four lower classifications, and that the number of sectors under operational control have icreased both both full years President Obama has been in office, things are getting under control.

The President's Speech Puts A Marker Down On Improved Border Safety

Yesterday President Obama took credit for improved safety along the south west border and made a call for a comprehensive solution to our broken immigration system. Simon wrote about this yesterday, noting that the President did the right thing by contextualizing the gains on the border with a broader overhaul of our immigration system.

This is important as not only did he acknowledge both the importance of border security as a component of CIR he also noted that now it should no longer be an impediment to moving forward with it, speaking about the Border Patrol:

So they’re doing outstanding work.  And in recent years, among one of the greatest impediments to reform were questions about border security.  And these were legitimate concerns.  What was true was a lack of manpower and a lack of resources at the border, combined with the pull of jobs and ill-considered enforcement once folks were in the country.

All this contributed to a growing number of undocumented people living in the United States.  And these concerns helped unravel a bipartisan coalition that we had forged back when I was in the United States Senate.  So in the years since, “borders first, borders first,” that's become the common refrain, even among those who were previously supportive of comprehensive immigration reform.
But over the last two years, thanks to the outstanding work of Janet and Alan and everybody who’s down here working at the border, we’ve answered those concerns.

Perhaps most importantly the President listed the accomplishments of his administration along the border:

  • The Border Patrol has 20,000 agents -- more than twice as many as there were in 2004. 
  • Then they wanted a fence.  Well, the fence is now basically complete.
  • We tripled the number of intelligence analysts working at the border. 
  • I’ve deployed unmanned aerial vehicles to patrol the skies from Texas to California.
  • We have forged a partnership with Mexico to fight the transnational criminal organizations that have affected both of our countries.
  • For the first time we’re screening 100 percent of southbound rail shipments to seize guns and money going south even as we go after drugs that are coming north. 

This is showing real results, the President noted that over the last 2 and 1/2 years:

  • We’ve seized 31 percent more drugs.
  • 75 percent more currency,
  • 64 percent more weapons than ever before
  • Apprehensions along the border have been cut by nearly 40 percent from two years ago.  That means far fewer people are attempting to cross the border illegally.

Some have questioned the veracity of some of these statistics, specifically just how much "operational control" CBP actually has on the border. I will be writing about this later today, but in closing this post, its important to note that the President didn't hold back in calling out Republicans who continually move the goal post on border enforcement as a way to hold back on immigration reform:

So, here’s the point.  I want everybody to listen carefully to this.  We have gone above and beyond what was requested by the very Republicans who said they supported broader reform as long as we got serious about enforcement.  All the stuff they asked for, we’ve done.  But even though we’ve answered these concerns, I’ve got to say I suspect there are still going to be some who are trying to move the goal posts on us one more time.

You know, they said we needed to triple the Border Patrol.  Or now they’re going to say we need to quadruple the Border Patrol.  Or they’ll want a higher fence.  Maybe they’ll need a moat.  (Laughter.)  Maybe they want alligators in the moat.  (Laughter.)  They’ll never be satisfied.  And I understand that.  That’s politics. 


Last Year There Were More Homicides In Speaker Boehner's District Then In The Four Largest Texas border Cities Combined

Ahead of President Obama's speech on immigration Speaker of the House John Boehner said the following to Roll Call, “Our first priority must be ending the violence at the border — we really can’t deal with other issues until it is secure.”

Today Congressman Silvestre Reyes of El Paso, a Border City which is considered one of the safest cities in the country, pointed out that the murder rate in Speaker Boehner's district was higher then those in all four of Texas border cities. His full statement can be seen here, quotes and statistics can be seen below:

The Speaker's own district in Dayton, Ohio saw more homicides in 2009 and 2010 than Texas' four largest border cities combined, despite the fact that Dayton's population of 141,500 is only about one-tenth of the size by comparison. According to the most recent City Crime Rankings Survey by CQ Press, Ohio's cities have higher rates of violence and crime in every category, including murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, and motor vehicle theft than border communities.

The statistics dont lie, the City Crime Ratings do show that the four Texas border states have a lower crime rate then Dayton, OH the Speakers District:

What To Expect Ahead Of The Presidents Speech On Immigration

Upon hearing that President Barack Obama will be giving a key note address on immigration at the Border, one may wonder why any sane politician would combine two such highly charged political hot potatoes in a single speech.

Yet, if anyone can speak to the facts surrounding both the border and immigration in a measured and tempered way it would be the President.

The President is giving his speech on the Border so it is highly likely that he will touch on some of the steps his administration has taken to make the region safer. It is also a safe bet that there will be some discussion of enforcement of current immigration laws and how the system as a whole must be fixed.

Some of this is reflexive, as the Republican Party has continually accused his administration and Congressional Democrats as a whole of being weak on enforcement and border security.

I have argued against the idea that Democrats are weak on enforcement before, however given the Presidents upcoming speech it is important to contextualize why addressing the issues of enforcement and border security is important from both a rhetorical and process standpoint in overhauling our current immigration system.

There is broad consensus that enforcement of current immigration laws and making the border region safer is in the best interest of the country and creates a path forward for broader overhauls.

What has been lost in the debate is why:

Since 2005 the current immigration debate has always been framed as a three legged stool: enforcement, future flow, dealing with the 11.1 million undocumented immigrants currently here. There is no sequential order in accomplishing these tasks; in fact the best way to accomplish these goals would be in tandem. Much like a stool, if you only utilize two of these legs, then the structure of the endeavor is compromised and the entire enterprise fails.

The fact that there is a lack of consensus that the President enforces immigration laws is a curious development. Recently immigration activists have become increasingly frustrated with what they see as an enforcement agenda and conservative pundits and politicians have continued to claim that there has been not enough enforcement of the nation's immigration laws.

In a way Immigration advocates (which I consider myself) are right, since the last major immigration legislation passed in 1996 (by a Democratic President written by a Republican Congress) was almost entirely enforcement and security based.

Republican's may have a point as well, but for the wrong reason. This Administration has put unprecedented amounts of resources towards the border and enforcement. Showing real results, crime on the border is down, in Texas where the President is giving his speech from 2008 to 2009 violent crime is down 1.6%, murder is also down 3.1% and aggravated assault has dropped by 3.1%. According to the 2010 City Crime Rankings the City of El Paso, which neighbors Ciudad Juarez one of the most dangerous cities in the world, has been rated the safest large city in America. What is more the according to the same report, the two largest border cities, El Paso and San Diego, are among the five safest in the nation.

Interior enforcement is also at an all time high. The Administration is currently deporting record levels of criminal immigrants at nearly four thousand every two year. There are roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country. We are at the highest rates of deportation in the history of the country, even at this maximum capacity rate DHS will never be able to deport enough criminal aliens to meet the expectations of the GOP. The real problem here is that enforcement alone is quite simply not the solution.

Senior level officials at the Department of Homeland Security, starting with Janet Napolitano on down have continued to note that they will continue to enforce the laws as they are written, but a real solution must come from Congress because enforcement alone is not the solution.

Going back to that three legged stool on immigration, Democrats with the help of their Republican friends along with the current administration have done a lot on enforcement and border security. The problem is not that the country needs more enforcement or less, it is that at the very least we should be having conversations about dealing with future flow and the 11 million currently here.

With the President's speech tomorrow let's hope we can put all of this narrow minded talk on border security enforcement in perspective and broaden the conversation to ways in which we can truly fix our broken immigration system.

Local Law Enforcement On The Border: Sheriff Ralph Ogden On How Unprecedented Amount Of Resources Made The Yuma Sector Safer

NDN was fortunate enough to be invited down to Arizona, to talk to local law enforcement officials who live and work along the border regarding their views on what is happening in the region between Mexico and the United States. 

Next in our series of interviews is Yuma County Sheriff Ralph E. Ogden.  Sheriff Ogden began his law enforcement career with the Yuma County Sheriff’s Office in 1970 after completing four years of service in the United States Marine Corps.  His 40 year career began as a dispatcher and jailer in Parker.  He was promoted to Deputy one year later and transferred to Wellton to become the area Sergeant.  In November 1980, he became Chief Deputy for the Yuma County Sheriff’s Office and served in that position until December 1992.

As the Sheriff of Yuma, Mr. Ogden notes that 7 to 8 years ago, the Yuma sector of the border was in a similar situation to Tucson, however since then there has been an unprecedented amount of resources allocated to the border. This has resulted in an area which is safe with little traffic from drug or human smuggling.

Local Law Enforcement On The Border: Sheriff Clarence Dupnik On How The Border Has Become Safer In Recent Years

NDN was fortunate enough to be invited down to Arizona, to talk to local law enforcement officials who live and work along the border regarding their views on what is happening in the region between Mexico and the United States. 

Next in our series of interviews is Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik. Sheriff Dupnik is a veteran of over 50 years in local law enforcement. He has served as the Sheriff of Pima County, Arizona, since his appointment in February 1980. County voters endorsed the choice nine months later by electing him to his first four-year term and ratified that decision by re-electing him six additional times.

He is also renowned for his statement's regarding Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords shooting which noted that the inflamed rhetoric in politics had reached harmful levels.

Below Sheriff Dupnik speaks to his experience with the border in his time as a Sheriff. He notes that the border has indeed become safer, but more work still must be done. He is also quick to add that much of what is said about the border is completely out of touch with the reality of the border.

Local Law Enforcement On The Border: Sheriff Tony Estrada On The Merits Of Making The Border Safe Vs. Trying To Seal It

NDN was fortunate enough to be invited down to Arizona, to talk to local law enforcement officials regarding their views on what is happening along the border between Mexico and the United States.

Next in our series of interview is Sheriff Tony Estrada, who was first sworn into office on January 1, 1993. Sheriff Estrada was born in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, immigrated with his family as an infant and grew up in Nogales, Arizona. He started his law enforcement career as a dispatcher with the Nogales Police Department and worked his way up through the ranks, retiring as a captain in 1991.

Below is his video, and it is worth watching as the Sheriff, gives a thoughtful mediation on the idea of being safer versus actually sealing the border. In particular the Sheriff notes that the border has been active and will always be active with commerce and the movement of people legally. The idea that it be sealed or shut down ignores the positive impact of the border on communities living there.

Sheriff Estrada also gives a brief overview of the changes along the border giving his four decades of being a law enforcement officer along the Border.

U.S. Hispanic Chamber Of Commerce Opposes Mandatory E-Verify In Florida Immigration Legislation

As Florida continues to grapple with passing an Arizona style immigration law which would require all state businesses to use E-Verify a federal employment verification system, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has weighed in with its opposition to the proposed legislation.

Marcos Restrepo has the full story at The Florida Independent which can be read here:

In a letter sent to Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolis, R-Merritt Island, the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce voiced its opposition yesterday to the state Senate’s proposed immigration-enforcement bill, “for fear of the economic impact such legislation will have on the state of Florida.” 

Senate Bill 2040 would among other things:

  • Mandate the use of E-Verify, a federal employee eligibility-verification program,
  • Require local law enforcement to establish Section 287(g) agreements with the federal government.

Section 287(g) is a controversial immigration-enforcement program that authorizes local law officers to enforce federal immigration law. The full legislation can be read here.

The Hispanic Chamber letter agrees the immigration system is broken and that immigration policy should be developed by the federal government. It adds that Florida residents are right to be concerned about immigration, but that when a state takes on this issue, it sees unintended consequences.

The letter points out that when the Arizona passed immigration enforcement law S.B. 1070 the Hispanic Chamber did not boycott the state but took a fact-based and business response. They voiced their opposition.

The full letter can be read here.

America's Top Cop William Bratton On Security Improvements Along The Southwest Border

NDN was fortunate enough to be invited down to Arizona, to talk to local law enforcement officials regarding their views on what is happening along the border between Mexico and the United States.  Over the next couple of days we will be putting videos up on the blog of some of our conversations with said law enforcement officials.

The first person we were able to talk to was William Bratton, who is currently the Vice President of Kroll Security Consulting. Bratton began his law enforcement career in 1970, and has served as Los Angeles Police Department Chief, Chief of the New York City Transit Police, Boston Police Commissioner, and New York City Police Commissioner. Please feel free to watch the video below:

E-Verify and Arizona Style Enforcement Law At The Center of Florida Immigration Debate

Two immigration bills, one in the state House the other in the state Senate, are causing protest from immigration activists and business leaders in Florida.

Laura Munoz of The Associated Press has the full story here:

Immigrant advocates say components of the House bill closely resemble the very ones in Arizona's new immigration law that a federal appeals court recently upheld were unconstitutional. Florida's House bill would authorize local law enforcement to check out the immigration status of anyone under investigation, even if the individual had never been arrested. And it would allow local officers to check the immigration status whenever they suspected someone is in the country illegally. The House bill also requires employers to use the federal government's E-Verify work authorization program.

Both advocates for and against stronger immigration laws are also focused on E-Verify, an employment verification system that has proven controversial for Florida Lawmakers:

The Senate bill is more limited, but it still requires local law enforcement check the immigration status of inmates, encouraging them to go beyond simply using federal criminal and immigration databases. The Senate bill would also allow businesses to let employees use a driver's license as proof they are authorized to work, instead of the E-Verify program. Supporters of stronger immigration enforcement say the Senate version of the bill is worthless because driver licenses from other states are too easy to forge and won't prove work eligibility.

Joyce Tarnow of the Floridians for a Sustainable Population was dissapointed that the Senate Bill did not require businesses in the state to use E-Verify:

Deeply disappointed with the Senate version of the bill, not because its enforcement provisions are watered down but because it doesn't make E-verify mandatory. She noted the latest review of the program by the U.S. Congress found it was accurate nearly 98 percent of the time. "E-verify is free, easy to use, highly accurate," she said, adding, "The agricultural industry and hotel industries just don't want to lose their access to cheap labor. It's the simplest, clearest way to have people self-deport."

More state legislatures are beginning to recognize that Arizona style laws may not be the best way to deal with immigration issues. The question may now become, how best to utilize the existing tools in the federal enforcement tool kit.

Making E-Verify mandatory, is coming up more often in individual states as a way for states to better enforce immigration laws. Utilizing existing federal employer verification programs is currently not mandatory nation wide.

NAVICUS an employment screening software organization that is part of the National Association of Professional Background Sreeners has a handy map up that shows which states require employment screeners and which do not, it can be seen below:

States in the Red have passed mandatory E-Verify, states in the orange recommend using E-Verify and states in the blue have no E-Verify law.

As Congress looks for ways in which the federal government can beef up enforcement nationwide, could a mandatory E-Verify be far behind?

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