The United States shares approximately 5,525 miles of border with Canada and approximately 1,989 miles of border with Mexico. The maritime border consists of approximately 95,000 miles of shoreline. More than 500 million people cross these borders to enter the US and approximately 300 million are foreign nationals. The US southern border has been problematic for over 40 years because of the illicit drug activity, human trafficking, illegal immigration and is known as the gateway for terrorists due to the lack of security measure in place on the border with Mexico.
The political rhetoric on both sides continually defend that either the southern border is more secure than ever, or that it is dangerously weak on defense. The debates on both sides are just that; all talk and no action. During the political election cycles, talk about border security arises and each party explains how tough they will be on securing the border when elected. This rhetoric has been occurring for over 40 years and the security at the border is moving at a snail’s pace.
Although the security at the border has improved over the years, drug trafficking and illegal immigration has increased, and quite possibly exceeded the increase in security. Customs and Border Protection claims an 81 percent interdiction effectiveness rate, a number which also includes unaccompanied children of illegal immigrants. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has apprehended more than 331,000 illegal immigrants attempting to enter the US. The Government Accountability Office has reported approximately 14,000 drug seizures in fiscal year 2015.
Many assume the production of illicit drugs is primarily in Mexico. The truth is cocaine is produced in Columbia, Peru and Bolivia. It is then pushed north by Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTOs), or narco cartels, and smuggled across the border into the United States. Heroin and marijuana are produced primarily in Mexico. One-third of all marijuana used in the US is grown domestically. Heroin seizures at the southwest border have more than doubled over the past five years, increasing the epidemic of heroin abuse in the US. This escalation of illicit drugs has fueled violence and instability on both sides of the border.
Drugs and human smuggling occur through chokepoints that include McAllen and El Paso, Texas, Yuma and Douglas, Arizona and San Diego, California. DTO’s use ingenious methods of smuggling, including tunnels under southern border fences. Many of these tunnels are quite sophisticated. They may include ventilation, electrical lighting and rail systems. Because of the demand for illegal drugs, how do we as a nation mitigate the flow of illegal drugs, illegal immigrants, and terrorists into the United States?
The answer is border security!
Border Patrol functions date back to 1904 when watchman worked on horseback deterring the flow of illegal immigration into the United States. The amount of border agents stationed on the southern border today is far more than that of 15-20 years ago. Today, there are over 20,000 agents on US borders. But even though the numbers have increased, specific rules of engagement have hampered efforts to combat violence on the border. For instance, former DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson ordered border agents to run from confrontations with illegal immigrants. This not only increased the chance for injury to the agent, but also sent a message to those entering illegally that the United States has a lenient policy when dealing with illegals entering the country.
[Editor’s note: See the award-winning Homeland Security Today cover report, Deadly Patrol]
Due to the increased rules of engagement and porous security measures on the southern border, the threat of terrorists crossing into the United States is increased. For many years, the border with Mexico has been plagued with drug cartels controlling what occurs and is increasingly getting worse. Terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, etc., have observed how the United States handles the security at the border and has used this intelligence to plan and organize the next attack. As far back as the 1980’s, Hezbollah and Hamas have been operating in Central America. Working alongside of Mexican DTOs, terrorist networks obtain weapons and passage into the United Stated for money. Because these organizations provide money to the DTOs, terrorists have unlimited access to cross into the United States.
[Editor’s note: See the groundbreaking Homeland Security Today report, Unholy Trinity]
The financial burden of illegal immigration costs the American taxpayer approximately $113 billion dollars a year at the federal, state and local level. Bulk costs are about $84 billion dollars at the state level. Education of children of illegal aliens is the largest cost to taxpayers of nearly $52 billion dollars annually. Most illegal aliens do not pay income taxes, and of those who do, most revenues collected are refunded to the illegals when they file a tax return.
How long is this fleecing of America going to continue before the government steps in and says enough! There are many options available to curb the flow of illegal immigration and drugs from crossing into the United States. The elected officials of this country need to develop a strategy that discourages future illegal immigration and the denial of job opportunities.
Building a wall across the southern border will slow the heavy migration and transportation of illegal drugs. The costs saved from illegal immigration can be used to pay for the wall. The United States cannot sustain the continued influx of illegal immigrants and expect to support them. Countermeasures need to be put in place to deter the vast amounts of drugs and illegal immigrants into the country. Terror cells are operating in Mexico and Central America.
There is no denying this, the United States government has continued to keep its head in the sand and ignore the problem on the southern border. Until this problem is taken seriously, this country will continue to suffer and be vulnerable to another large scale attack.
Richard Losurdo is a Lieutenant with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and assigned to the Training Division in Oklahoma City. He is also an adjunct professor with Hilbert College in Hamburg, New York. Losurdo has a Masters of Arts in Homeland Security from American Military University.