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Column 071315 Brewer

Monday, July 13, 2015

U.S. and Mexico Border Security Rhetoric Lacks Proper Focus

By Jerry Brewer

The geographically complex border between the U.S. and Mexico continues to befuddle lawmakers as to a sensible set of priorities. Governments appear to have lost any ability to apply coherent and cognitive capabilities or strategic approaches to properly understand, assess, and “manage and control” the 1,941 mile U.S. border with Mexico.

To complicate issues in this critical mutual need of neighboring nations, to unite in a proactive and strategic plan to accomplish the tasks at hand, there are so-called pundits and political candidate(s) making buffoonish comments and antics not supported by fact.

Communities along the border require coordinated regional strategic plans that should be of paramount concern. Although immigration enforcement is a valid topic that requires constant attention, and enforcement operational plans, it must be understood that a border cannot be fully “sealed and secured.”

What is fact is that the laws to enforce national immigration have failed miserably. However, immigration alone fails to intricately define the real battlefield. There are those that simply can’t differentiate between imminent or viable threats and benign acts, including illegal border encroachment, thus losing the proper concept of homeland security. Enforcement efforts and priorities can therefore be clouded and unclear.

One presidential candidate, Donald Trump, in a blusterous harangue about illegal immigration from Mexico into the U.S., recently said: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have a lot of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us [sic]. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Trump made no distinction between legal and illegal immigrants.

First off, Mexico is not “sending” anyone. Secondly, were these allegations made against legal or illegal immigrants, or both? Does he believe that only Mexico is the problem?

The plain truth is that, contrasted with U.S. native born citizens, immigrants as a whole have lower rates of criminal behavior. Proof of this is contained in a ranking by Congressional Quarterly that shows of the top ten safest large cities using FBI statistics, seven have large Hispanic immigrant populations.

On the border with Mexico, El Paso, Texas has an 81 percent Hispanic population, including 26 percent who are foreign-born, and ranked as the safest large city in the U.S. for several years. In contrast, Juarez, Mexico, across the border from El Paso, has been one of the most violent places in Latin America.

Since 1990, the number of Central American immigrants in the United States has nearly tripled. “This immigrant population grew faster than any other region-of-origin population from Latin America between 2000 and 2010.” Since 1992, “undocumented immigrants from Mexico made up less than half of those apprehended by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.”

The complex border security problems require a commonsense approach, devoid of prejudices, misinformation and partisan politics. Irresponsible or ignorant attacks against, in this case our neighboring country of Mexico, completely distort the true rationale for effective border security.

Crime is most certainly a concern to our southern border, but a new Immigration Policy Center study, by Walter Ewing, Daniel Martinez and Ruben Rumbaut, points out that "the foreign-born population rose from 7.9 percent to 13.1 percent from 1990 to 2013, and the number of unauthorized immigrants more than tripled, but the violent crime rate declined by 48 percent and property crime by 41 percent.” The study further reported, as for incarceration rates, immigrant men ages 18 to 39 are less than half as likely to be incarcerated as native-born men the same age.

To the most important issue of managing and controlling our borders, the unfocused urgency to fix with what may be insurmountable expectations, is to do so by diligently working to control “manageable sectors” of the Mexican border, especially those areas competently identified as significant entry or transient locations.

Realists on the border know that it represents much more than just a dividing line between two nations, nor is it a boundary that can be totally “secured” and simply remedied with billions of dollars of walls and fences – and be done with it.  

The border represents business travelers, foreign tourists, employers, employees, all routinely traversing in both directions. The solutions rest in sound strategies inherent on coordinated efforts of enforcement officials in confronting the complexities on a daily basis along the border. Much of this includes sound intelligence sharing and much improved communication amongst the entire homeland security networks.

The fact is that 1,941 miles of border, other than the more or less manageable sectors, cities and regions, will have vast areas of porous border in which fences and walls are scaled or tunneled under; contraband is catapulted over; plus ultralights fly over and now drones are being used. Yet technical interdiction devices and aerial surveillance are and will be important security resources to protect against actual and potential attacks upon national sovereignty.

Politicians, apparently, are more concerned with defining border problems and the enemy than strategical engagement and interdiction. Border security also has a mandate to protect and defend persons and property. In support, local, county and state police must have a clearly defined role, especially within border jurisdictions as a first line of defense.

As well, still, politicians must determine what they can and will realistically do with millions of undocumented residents who have been crossing into the U.S. for decades.

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Jerry Brewer is C.E.O. of Criminal Justice International Associates, a global threat mitigation firm headquartered in northern Virginia.  His website is located at www.cjiausa.org.

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