Illegal Aliens - Who Enforces Immigration Laws?
border agents patrol ins
Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, it became apparent that some or all of the perpetrators had entered the United States legally and many had overstayed their allotted time with no notice taken by the INS or any other enforcement agency. On March 1, 2003, INS functions and those of the U.S. Customs Service were folded into the newly created Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Within the DHS, the new U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) oversees the movement of goods and people into the United States, while Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is responsible for enforcing immigration laws within the United States and along its land and water boundaries. On March 17, 2004, Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security Asa Hutchinson reported before the Subcommittee on Infrastructure and Border Security of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security (http://www.globalsecurity.org/security/library/congress/2004_h/040317-hutchinson.doc) that ports of entry into the United States stretched across 7,500 miles of land border with Mexico and Canada, and 95,000 miles of shoreline and navigable rivers. Conditions and venues varied considerably, from air and sea ports of entry in metropolitan New York City with dozens of employees, to a two-person land entry point in North Dakota.
The U.S. Border Patrol
The U.S. Border Patrol, the mobile uniformed law enforcement arm of the CBP, is responsible for the detection and apprehension of illegal aliens and smugglers of aliens at or near U.S. land borders—a difficult, sometimes dangerous, and often frustrating job. The United States is divided into twenty-one Border Patrol Sectors. Nine of the Border Patrol sectors are along the southwest border. (See Figure 5.5.)
THE SOUTHWEST BORDER.
The biggest illegal entry problems occur along the 1,956-mile border between the United States and Mexico. The four states bordering Mexico—Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California—have 39 ports of entry. About five million Mexican nationals reside in the Mexican municipalities (municipios) along the southwest border.
RECRUITING BORDER PATROL AGENTS.
The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA) mandated that the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) add 1,000 Border Patrol agents each year starting fiscal year (FY) 1997 through 2001. In 1997 and 1998 the INS fulfilled the law's mandate but fell short in 1999, when just 363 agents were added. In March 1999 the Clinton administration announced it would not request more funding for Border Patrol positions, citing the problems that could result from having too many inexperienced agents.
In 2000 the INS strengthened its recruiting efforts by training Border Patrol agents as recruiters and offering entrance exams throughout the country. It advertised in movie theaters, on television, and on the Internet. About 80% of those interested applied over the Internet. In addition, the INS offered a $2,000 recruitment bonus to each recruit. As a result, the INS reported that more than 1,700 new agents were hired, bringing the total number of agents to 9,212.
The aggressive recruitment effort continued, and in 2001 legislation was passed that increased the base pay for new agents to about $41,000. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, the need for Border Patrol agents became acute. In his testimony on October 17, 2001, before the House Committee on Government Reform, INS Commissioner James W. Ziglar pointed out that even before September 11, Border Patrol agents were routinely recruited away by other federal law enforcement agencies that offered better pay. In fact, as Jonathan Peterson of the Los Angeles Times reported, about 2,000 Border Patrol agents and immigration inspectors left the INS between October 2001 and August 2002 ("'Mass Exodus' of Agents Leaves INS Scrambling," August 5, 2002). Many took better-paid airline security jobs with the newly created Transportation Security Administration. According to Peterson, in FY 2002, 1,499 new Border Patrol agents were hired—but 1,459 veterans left. Border Patrol agents complained of low job satisfaction, low pay, and the poor image of the INS as well as uncertainty over its continued existence.
After INS responsibilities were turned over to the DHS, a recruiting campaign was launched on college campuses in an effort to meet President George W. Bush's goal of hiring 570 new Border Patrol agents in FY 2003. The nation's post–September 11 southwest border strategy called for 14,000 Border Patrol agents to be in place by 2010 (Jerry Seper, "14,000 Agents Needed to Patrol Mexico Border," Washington Times, September 23, 2002).
THE NORTHERN BORDER.
The September 11 terrorist attacks also highlighted the vulnerability of the nation's northern border, where fewer than 300 Border Patrol agents guarded the nearly 4,000-mile border with Canada, and several ports of entry were not staffed around-the-clock. In FY 2002, 245 Border Patrol agents were allocated to the northern border. On July 2, 2003, CBP Commissioner Robert Bonner announced that 375 additional Border Patrol agents would be deployed to the northern border, bringing the total number of agents there to 1,000 (http://www.customs.gov/xp/cgov/newsroom/press_releases/archives/cbp_press_releases/072003/07022003.xml).