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Distorting the picture on border security
Posted by: McQ on Friday, May 19, 2006

We're obviously at odds here at QandO (and that is a good and healthy situation ... and pretty normal for us) on certain elements of the umbrella "immigration issue". For instance, Jon believes border security is something which is virtually impossible. He offers this as an example of why the strategic use of fencing is doomed to failure:
Starting in 1993, the Border Patrol blockaded major urban crossing points from San Diego to El Paso, where large groups of immigrants simply dashed across in what were known as "banzai runs." In El Paso, agents continuously patrolled the Rio Grande, hoping to deter immigrants. A year later in San Diego, the government built a 10-foot-high steel fence for Operation Gatekeeper. Eventually, 106 miles of fencing was constructed near every metropolis along the border with Mexico.

But the illegal crossings have continued.

Gatekeeper and the other efforts did nothing to stem the tide of illegal entries to the United States. In fiscal 2005, the Border Patrol apprehended 1.1 million people, about the same as in 1993. Several academic studies have estimated that 500,000 got through, also the same as in 1993, despite the number of Border Patrol agents tripling to more than 11,000 in 12 years.
Well of course they've continued. 106 miles of badly broken down single strand fence with no observation or monitoring is hardly proof that properly constructed fences at strategic locations, observed and monitored are doomed to the same fate.

Check out this graphic:

Show/Hide

First look at the existing fence. Is there any surprise, for instance, that in the San Deigo corridor, illegals simply go around the existing fence? Anyone who would try to pass that attempt off as proof that fencing won't work isn't fooling anyone.

Now, change focus and look at the distribution of crossings. Look specifically at Texas. In the Eagle pass to Del Rio corridor, approximately 60,000 illegals usually cross. OK, pan west, along the multi-hundred mile border between El Paso and Del Rio. Approximately 10,000 crossers.

Why? Because it is no-go territory, or at least much tougher territory to cross requiring much more planning, supplies and time. Forced into that sector by effective fencing, the marginal cost of crossing goes up. That will obviously weed out a certain percentage of potential illegal crossers. The same happens in the other open corridors. Effective fencing (by that I mean more than one fence with monitors and sensors) will push the majority of illegal crossers into making new calculations about the worth of attempting to cross.

Effective fencing also allows for better deployment of Border Patrol assets. Now, instead of all having to cover an entire border area, fencing and monitoring enhance their ability to do their jobs better. In the military we call these sorts of enhancments "combat multipliers". An Infantry Magazine article describes the effect thusly:
Combat multipliers are systems that provide an advantage over the enemy when integrated with other combat systems.
Obviously we're not facing an "enemy" in illegal immigrants (although we certainly are facing enemies in terrorist and criminals using the same routes) but the point is made ... the use of fencing, sensors, cameras, IR, night vision and any number of other technological advantages give us the advantage of using less agents more effectively. They act as "Border Patrol multipliers".

And the use of fencing also allows us to do something else the military finds to be exceedingly useful. Canalizing.

Canalizing is when you keep the enemy from moving through good terrain (through the combined use of observed obstacles and troops) and give an opponent the bad choice of using less favorable terrain for an attack. The opposing commander must then make a choice. Accept the risk and and possiblity of a loss inherent in an attack on bad terrain or wait until an overwhelming force can be put together which will ensure success.

That, of course is not how illegal crossers will make the same sort of calculation. Theirs will be reduced to a pretty simple "go" or "no-go". Or said another way "worth it" or "not worth it". My guess is, if structured properly, most will find the effort "not worth it".

If, however, illegal crossers are successfully made to consider travel through the "no-go" corridors, there will obviously be better routes than others and simple observation will point those out to us. Sensor arrays can then be deployed, in depth, and integrated with communications so that hot spots can be detected, observed (Global Hawk or Predator), and Border Patrol assets deployed quickly, effeciently and effectively. And National Guard avaiation assets could be a part of that. They're always looking for blade time and helicopter assets would be well used.

OK, back to the graphic. Look at the construction of the fence. Two fences, both with 8' vehicle ditches outside of them, sensors, cameras and a patrol road. Compare that to the pictures of fences you see elsewhere on the border now. There is no comparision. Another military maxim brought into play here is "an obstacle is only an obstacle when it is observed".

What that means is if you block a road, it will certainly stop someone from using it temporarily but if its not observed when you stop him all you end up doing is delaying him. You don't degrade his power because without observation, you cnn't bring him under fire when he is most vulnerable. Unobserved, your opponent will simply dismantle the obstacle with no other cost than time to him. Again, I'm not equating what is proposed with fighting an enemy, but the principle is the same.

With the fence under constant observation, success at penetrating it and getting away with it are not very good. It won't take long for most illegals to learn that lesson.
Which brings me to two other enforcement problems.

* We simply allow Mexicans to walk into the US. Want to visit San Diego? Just walk to the Tijuana border, show some ID to the border guards, and they wave you in. Americans and Mexicans can cross the border virtually unmolested. In fact, the US Mexican border is the most highly legally trafficked border in the world. The "San Ysidro Port of Entry, which links Tijuana, Mexico with San Diego" is the "world's busiest border crossing"

They can simply walk in. . .and stay. How does more border control solve that?


* Between "a third and a half of the illegal immigrants in this country" enter "on legal visas and then never leave". Increased border control won't do a thing about that.
The assumption that this must remain 'as is' is obviously not acceptable. If we're going to secure the border as I've outlined, then we must also handle this part of the problem as well. Consequently a quick but much more stringent screening process must be implemented at these particular points. That would include defining what is considered credible and acceptable identification to crossers and not accepting anything else. Or, said another way, this is a procedural problem, not a physical problem.

One more look at the graphic. Note the chart. Note that at one time, despite the budget and the fewer numbers, we were very successfully apprehending very large numbers of illegal crossers. Then apprehensions dropped like a rock. That tells me it isn't an enforcement problem, but a political problem ... a problem of lack of attention and lack of will. And everyone knows how that can be solved. In fact, we're in the midst of seeing that now.

We'll obviously learn as we go as it pertains to better securing the border. Lessons learned should be dissemintated, applied as necessary and procedures and physical barriers corrected or expanded as experience warrants.

Lastly:
He also eliminated immigrants from the survey, but still found that in "states with lots of immigrants, even native-born Americans are more pro-immigration."
I'm pro-immigrant.

But I'm also pro-border security.

They are certainly not mutually exclusive.

I simply ask that those who wish to immigrate go through the procedures we have in place and undergo the scrutiny necessary to protect the citizens of this country. What I'm "anti" is illegal crossers because they pose a threat to security and the citizens of the US. And I don't see any reason, despite the argument to the contrary, that a physical barrier, properly done and monitored, couldn't be most effective in preventing the vast majority of illegal crossers from succssfully doing so.

UPDATE: Another discussion of the need for border security and more here.

UPDATE II: Krauthammer nails it on border security:
The only thing that might work is a physical barrier. The president offhandedly dismisses a wall as something that could never stop the "enormous pressure on our border."

By what logic? Opponents pretend that these barriers can always be circumvented by, say, tunnels or clandestine entry by sea. Such arguments are transparently unserious. You're hardly going to get 500,000 illegals lining up outside a tunnel or on a pier. Such choke points are exactly how you would turn the current river of illegal immigrants into narrow streams — which is all we need to turn the illegal immigration problem from out of control to eminently manageable.
 
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Comments
$1.32 million per mile of heavy duty fence? Please tell me this isn’t a government operation. Perhaps it’s time to open the border to unlimited Chinese immigrants...
 
Written By: rammage
URL: www.atlasblogged.com
This post is exactly right. If it were combined with a liberalization of legal immigration, it could be extremely effective. The whole goal of border policy, imho, should be to let as many honest, hardworking people who want to join this country in, and keep as many people who don’t fit that description out.
 
Written By: Sean
URL: http://www.myelectionanalysis.com
Sean is right. If we are truly anti-illegal-immigrant, but not anti-immigrant, (as most of us claim) then isn’t the most obvious solution, the most effective, and the least expensive one, to simply increase the allotment for legal Mexican immigrant visas? It certainly seems that way to me.
 
Written By: Laurence Burton
URL: http://
The whole goal of border policy, imho, should be to let as many honest, hardworking people who want to join this country in, and keep as many people who don’t fit that description out.
Yup, and that can’t be done unless you have a method of controlling the flow.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
It certainly seems that way to me.
And of course that will prevent terrorists and criminals from coming across an open border, one assumes?

It is a two-fold problem: security and immigration reform (through streamlining the process, etc) that requires both aspects of it be solved.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
It’s taken me awhile to get the time to respond here, but a few points:
Well of course they’ve continued. 106 miles of badly broken down single strand fence with no observation or monitoring is hardly proof that properly constructed fences at strategic locations, observed and monitored are doomed to the same fate.
I’m not trying to "fool" anyone. Every effort at fencing to date has failed. Why will fencing work the next time? What will it be? 2000 miles of fence? The proposals so far are merely for longer fences. Will they go around 106 miles of fence, but not 320? Will 106 miles of fence be destroyed, but not 2000 miles? Will they stop tunneling or breaking in, and forego coastal entry?

More importantly, why would they not simply cross at, e.g., the San Ysidro Port of Entry and stay? They’re as free to enter the US as we are to enter Mexico. How will a fence and border patrols stop that?

Also...
Forced into that sector by effective fencing, the marginal cost of crossing goes up. That will obviously weed out a certain percentage of potential illegal crossers.
Perhaps. Almost certainly, though, it would disincentivize border crossing for the peaceful migrants who just want to come here to work for awhile. Will terrorists say "well, I wanted to bring a bomb into the US, but it just wasn’t worth climbing through a tunnel, or paying the $1,500 to pay a coyote to smuggle me in." A border policy that focuses on peaceful migrants rather than violent criminals and terrorists is exactly backwards.

Meanwhile, will we deploy these same measures along 4000 miles of Canadiab border? At what cost?
Note that at one time, despite the budget and the fewer numbers, we were very successfully apprehending very large numbers of illegal crossers.
I’m not sure that this is indicative of much. Apprehending large numbers of migrants doesn’t mean much when we’re simply returning them to try again. Apprehending them doesn’t take them out of commission. It might simply be increasing the churn. That’s a deadweight loss.
What I’m "anti" is illegal crossers because they pose a threat to security and the citizens of the US.
I doubt you actually believe that, as it is written. Illegals crossers may pose a threat to the security of US citizens Or they may not. There’s nothing intrinsic in crossing a border unmonitored that makes one a security threat to US citizens. Millions of illegal immigrants are living peacefully and productive lives within the US.
And I don’t see any reason, despite the argument to the contrary, that a physical barrier, properly done and monitored, couldn’t be most effective in preventing the vast majority of illegal crossers from succssfully doing so.
We’ll agree to disagree. I’m extremely skeptical of the governments ability to control people, and I really don’t see much reason to believe that the government will spontaneously become effective at this sort of thing now.

Moreover, it seems like this kind of border control will be aimed almost exclusively at the vast majority of peaceful migrants, rather than the bare minority of problems. Assuming, arguendo, that it could be "most effective in preventing the vast majority of illegal crossers from succssfully doing so", I have to point out that our aim ought not be on preventing the "vast majority" from entering the US, but in preventing the dangerous minority. Every peaceful migrant we try to stop represents resources diverted from stopping dangerous migrants.

I’m not sure that you and I are that far off in our optimal plans, but you seem to have more of a "control the borders first with force" philosophy, while I think that would ultimately make security more difficult, while other paths would make it much, much easier to police the borders effectively.

 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
I’m not trying to "fool" anyone.
Actually I wasn’t talking about you, Jon, but instead whoever wrote the cite you used. That’s why the sentence in the middle is in bold type. To pretend that 106 miles of unobserved and broken down fence somehow means proper fencing won’t do the work is foolish.
Every effort at fencing to date has failed.
How many times did Edison fail with the lightbulb.

Every effort, as I attempt to point out, has failed for a reason. Inferior construction and no observation. A fence is an obstacle, and the only obstacle which is effective is an observed obstacle.
Will they go around 106 miles of fence, but not 320? Will 106 miles of fence be destroyed, but not 2000 miles? Will they stop tunneling or breaking in, and forego coastal entry?
Obviously you didn’t look at the graphic or read the Krauthammer quote if you have to ask this.

It also appears you didn’t read the portion about canalizing and go and no-go terrain.
Perhaps. Almost certainly, though, it would disincentivize border crossing for the peaceful migrants who just want to come here to work for awhile. Will terrorists say "well, I wanted to bring a bomb into the US, but it just wasn’t worth climbing through a tunnel, or paying the $1,500 to pay a coyote to smuggle me in." A border policy that focuses on peaceful migrants rather than violent criminals and terrorists is exactly backwards.
Well see, here you go again. I don’t have a problem with finding a method for "peaceful immigrants" to come into the US ... LEGALLY.

And, if properly done, terrorists can tunnel or pay coyotes $15,000 dollars and few if any will get in. We’re back to that "observed obstacle" point.
Meanwhile, will we deploy these same measures along 4000 miles of Canadiab border? At what cost?
What’s this, the 4th time you’ve asked these questions? Same answer: if necessary. Cost? Less than we pay for Medicare part D.
I’m not sure that this is indicative of much. Apprehending large numbers of migrants doesn’t mean much when we’re simply returning them to try again. Apprehending them doesn’t take them out of commission. It might simply be increasing the churn. That’s a deadweight loss.
With open borders you’re absolutely right. So with the borders being secured we know, given past apprehension rates, that we’d probably eliminate the churn. Net positive.
I doubt you actually believe that, as it is written. Illegals crossers may pose a threat to the security of US citizens Or they may not.
Of course. So how do we tell the difference at this time? Since the set who will harm our citizens is included in the set of all illegal crossers and since we have, at this time, no way to differentiate those who will from those who won’t, it makes perfect logical sense to stop them all.
Assuming, arguendo, that it could be "most effective in preventing the vast majority of illegal crossers from succssfully doing so", I have to point out that our aim ought not be on preventing the "vast majority" from entering the US, but in preventing the dangerous minority. Every peaceful migrant we try to stop represents resources diverted from stopping dangerous migrants.
Not at all, since none of those "dangerous migrants" is likely to choose to try to enter legally (assuming we have some way to check their legitimacy) through a legal point of entry. An open border remains the best and easiest way to enter if a criminal or terrorist.
I’m not sure that you and I are that far off in our optimal plans, but you seem to have more of a "control the borders first with force" philosophy, while I think that would ultimately make security more difficult, while other paths would make it much, much easier to police the borders effectively.
As I’ve said any number of times, I have no problem with legal immigration or streamlining the process to allow peaceful migrants to come. But none of that is going to stop a criminal or a terrorist from choosing the easiest and least risky way for him or her to enter —- and that, at present, is our open borders. So in my estimation, both have to be done.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog

 
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