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Think Again: Immigration

Author: Shannon K. O'Neil, Senior Fellow for Latin America Studies and Director of the Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy Program
January 29, 2013
Foreign Policy


"We Can't Pass Immigration Reform Until We Secure the Border."

It doesn't and can't work that way. Over the last 12, years the number of border-patrol agents has doubled -- making the Customs and Border Patrol one of the largest police forces in the United States. The federal budget for border enforcement has also grown to more than $18 billion dollars a year. The added money has gone to fund the more boots on the ground, some 700 miles of physical fencing, sophisticated border technology, and a growing number of detention centers.Prosecutions for illegal entry are at an all-time high -- now representing half of all federal crimes.

With all these resources and manpower, the border has arguably become the securest it has ever been. Apprehensions have declined from a high of some 1.7 million in 2000 to now just a fifthof those levels. Crime rates are also down. Despite sharing a border with Ciudad Juárez, one of the deadliest cities in the world over the past few years, El Paso reported only 16 homicides during 2011. The numbers for less-reported crimes, such as kidnapping, have also fallen. The much-discussed threat of spillover violence has not only failed to materialize in El Paso, but also in other border linked cities -- including San Antonio, San Diego, and Austin -- all of which boast safer records than similar-size cities far from the Rio Grande.

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