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13 July 2005

United States Reducing Illegal Entries at Southwest Border

New policies, technologies yield results, U.S. Border Patrol chief says

U.S. border authorities are working with state, local and international partners to apply new policies and technologies to border protection to reduce illegal entries, human smuggling and the threat of terrorism.

The chief of the Border Patrol in the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) agency offered a progress report on these initiatives in testimony before the U.S. House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Homeland Security July 12. David Aguilar said the Arizona Border Control Initiative, enacted in cooperation with U.S. and Mexican law enforcement agencies, is bringing together resources and agency intelligence into a combined effort that will “make a significant positive effect towards fighting terrorism, illegal migration and crime in that border area.”

Implementation of the expedited removal (ER) policy 11 months ago is also having a measurable impact on increasing the apprehension of illegal aliens, Aguilar said, and apparently deterring illegal border crossings in the Southwest. 

The ER policy allows border authorities to apprehend aliens who have entered the United States illegally and cannot prove their presence in the country for the 14 days prior to their encounter with authorities. ER, which accelerates removal of the inadmissible alien, is currently targeted at illegal aliens CBP describes as “other than Mexicans” (OTMs) -- non-Mexicans who attempt to enter the United States through its border with Mexico.

In explaining the policy when it was first implemented in 2004, CBP’s parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), said, “DHS also believes that the use of expedited removal will likely interfere with human trafficking and alien smuggling operations, which are growing in sophistication, and which induce aliens from all over the world to cross the country’s borders.”

Aguilar testified July 12 that evidence emerging from the two border sectors where the ER policy has been implemented demonstrates a deterrent effect.

“DHS expects ER and the associated mandatory detention pending removal to their country of nationality will become a significant tool to deter future illegal crossing between the ports of entry, particularly for other than Mexican nationals who transit through Mexico,” according to Aguilar’s testimony.

Aguilar said the ER policy has shortened the time illegal entrants spend in detention due to their more rapid expulsion from the United States.

He added that the CBP has adopted more sophisticated information technologies at border patrol stations, which allow agents rapid, simultaneous access to identification databases of DHS and the Department of Justice. Better access to these systems “have identified hundreds of egregious offenders, including murderers, rapists, kidnappers and drug traffickers, who otherwise may have gone undetected.”

Additional information about U.S. border protection efforts is available at on the Customs and Border Protection Web site.

The text of Aguilar’s testimony follows:

(begin text)

STATEMENT OF DAVID AGUILAR
CHIEF, OFFICE OF BORDER PATROL
US CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION
DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY

BEFORE THE UNITED STATES HOUSE COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS
SUBCOMMITTEE ON HOMELAND SECURITY

REGARDING

COPING WITH ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION ON THE SOUTHWEST BORDER

TUESDAY, JULY 12 2005
2:00 PM
ROOM 2362A, RAYBURN OFFICE BUILDING

CHAIRMAN ROGERS, RANKING MEMBER SABO, AND OTHER DISTINGUISHED COMMITTEE MEMBERS, it is my honor to have the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the successes and challenges of border security on the southwest border and in particular the implementation of the Expedited Removal program, as demonstrated by the operations and law enforcement initiatives of the Office of Border Patrol, a component of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).  My name is David Aguilar, and I am the Chief of Border Patrol.  I would like to begin by giving you a brief overview of our agency and mission.

CBP, as the guardian of the Nation's borders, safeguards the homeland-foremost, by protecting the American public against terrorists and the instruments of terrorism; while at the same time enforcing the laws of the United States and fostering the Nation's economic security through lawful travel and trade.  Contributing to all this is the Border Patrol's time-honored duty of interdicting illegal aliens and drugs and those who attempt to smuggle them across our borders between the Ports of Entry.  We are concerned that illegal human smuggling routes may be exploited by terrorists to conduct attacks against the U.S. homeland. Reducing illegal migration across our borders may help in disrupting possible attempts by terrorists to enter our country. 

CBP Border Patrol's National Strategy has made a centralized chain of command a priority and has increased the effectiveness of our agents by using intelligence driven operations to deploy our resources.  The Strategy recognizes that border awareness and cooperation with our law enforcement partners is critical.  Partnerships with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Department of the Interior, DEA, FBI, Department of Transportation, other interagency partners, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies and state Homeland Security offices play a vital role in having and disseminating information and tactical intelligence that assists in a quick response, which is essential to mission success. 

Recognizing that we cannot control our borders by merely enforcing at the "line," our strategy incorporates a "defense in depth" component, to include transportation checks away from the physical border.  Checkpoints are critical to our patrol efforts, for they deny major routes of egress from the borders to smugglers intent on delivering people, drugs, and other contraband into the interior of the United States.  Permanent checkpoints allow CBP Border Patrol to establish an important second layer of defense and help deter illegal entries through improved enforcement.

CBP Border Patrol will continue to assess, develop, and deploy the appropriate mix of technology, personnel, and information sources to gain, maintain, and expand coverage of the border in an effort to use our resources in the most efficient fashion.  As an example, the use of technology including, the expansion of camera systems, biometrics, sensors, air assets, and improving communications systems can provide the force multiplier that CBP Border Patrol needs to be more effective.

Historically, major CBP Border Patrol initiatives, such as Operation Hold the Line, Operation Gatekeeper, and Operation Rio Grande in our El Paso, San Diego, and McAllen Sectors, respectively, have had great border enforcement impact on illegal migration patterns along the southwest border, proving that a measure of control is possible.  Together, they have laid the foundation for newer strategies and enforcement objectives and an ambitious goal to gain control of our Nation's borders, particularly our border with Mexico. 

These initiatives will significantly affect illegal migration as we seek to bring the proper balance of personnel, equipment, technology, and infrastructure into areas experiencing the greatest level of cross-border illegal activity along our Nation's borders between the Ports of Entry.  An example of one of these initiatives is the Arizona Border Control Initiative, currently in Phase Two.  In this effort, CBP as the operational lead for ABCI partners with other DHS agencies and other federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies, bringing together resources and fused intelligence into a geographical area that has been heavily impacted by illicit smuggling activity.  Our current efforts include building on partnerships with the Government of Mexico to create a safer and more secure border through the Border Safety Initiative and special repatriation programs. In doing so, we continue to make a significant positive effect towards fighting terrorism, illegal migration, and crime in that border area.  

Another example is the partnership between DHS and the Department of Justice to develop the IDENT/IAFIS integrated workstation, which captures a single set of fingerprints and submits them simultaneously to DHS' Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT) and DOJ's Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) for identity checks.  These integrated systems were deployed to all Border Patrol stations in 2004, nearly three months ahead of the schedule.   With immediate access to IAFIS, our Agents have identified hundreds of egregious offenders, including murderers, rapists, kidnappers, and drug traffickers, who otherwise may have gone undetected.  It has demonstrated significant steps towards improving national security and greatly enhancing our ability to secure our nation's borders.

The U.S. continues to experience a rising influx of other than Mexican nationals (OTMs) illegally entering the country.  Apprehensions are running at a rate of 175% for FY05 over FY 04's record number of OTM apprehensions on the southwest border, and 131% over the record national FY 04 OTM apprehension figure of 75,371. The exponential growth in the apprehension of OTM illegal entrant aliens and, in most cases, their subsequent release is a major impediment to the removal process.  Currently, Border Patrol places most of these apprehensions in removal proceedings before an Immigration Judge.  To help streamline the removal process, DHS expanded the use of Expedited Removal proceedings (ER) for OTMs, initially in the Tucson and Laredo sectors. ER proceedings, when contrasted with traditional removal proceedings, shorten the duration of time spent in detention facilities and the practical elimination of time spent getting ready for and appearing before immigration courts and judges. 

Both the Laredo and Tucson Sectors are currently utilizing ER to streamline the removal process. The deterrence effect of the ER process on OTM illegal entry may clearly be seen when comparing these two sectors with sectors without this removal process. The reducing impact of ER on OTM apprehension rates, as compared other sectors is clear.  This is especially dramatic with Brazilian OTMs. In both the Laredo and Tucson Sectors, the lower rates of apprehension for OTMs contrast with those of neighboring Sectors that have not been using ER.

Building upon its success in Tucson and Laredo Sectors since September 2004, DHS expects ER and the associated mandatory detention pending removal to their country of nationality will become a significant tool to deter future illegal crossing between the ports of entry, particularly for other than Mexican (OTM) nationals who transit through Mexico. 

Secretary Chertoff has approved expanding the use of ER to additional Border Patrol sectors upon satisfactory completion of training and within the parameters of available detention space.  ER is now used in the Rio Grande Valley (formerly McAllen) as well as in certain circumstances Yuma, El Centro and San Diego sectors (those aliens who have illegally reentered the United States while subject to a prior Order of Exclusion, Removal, or Deportation while still meeting all other criteria for ER).  Challenges to full and successful implementation include the availability of detention space and transportation for aliens placed in ER proceedings. 

CBP has learned valuable lessons from the expansion of ER to Tucson and Laredo Sectors.  First, when contrasted with traditional removal proceedings, ER proceedings dramatically shorten the duration of time spent in detention facilities.   Second, the ER process is reducing OTM apprehension rates in Tucson and Laredo, and we anticipate a similar effect as it is expanded to McAllen. 

Nationally, CBP Border Patrol is tasked with a very complex, sensitive, and difficult job, which historically has presented immense challenges.  We face these challenges every day with vigilance, dedication to service, and integrity as we work to strengthen national security and protect America and its citizens.  Mr. Chairman, in closing I want to take this opportunity to thank you, Mr. Sabo, and each Member of this Subcommittee for your strong support of all of the men and women of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, including the Border Patrol.  The 500 new agents you funded in the 2005 War Supplemental are just one example of this Subcommittee's continuing commitment to border security and we are grateful for the support.  I would be pleased to respond to any questions that you might have at this time.

(end text)