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Think Again: Immigration

Author: Shannon K. O'Neil, Senior Fellow for Latin America Studies
January 29, 2013
Foreign Policy

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"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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