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Senate Homeland Security Hearing on Border Security Progress and Challenges

On 3/14/13 at 10:00am Eastern the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee will hold a hearing titled: "Border Security: Measuring the Progress and Addressing the Challenges."

Witness List:

The Honorable Doris Meissner
Senior Fellow and Director, U.S. Immigration Policy Program
Migration Policy Institute

Edward Alden
Bernard L. Schwartz Senior Fellow
Council on Foreign Relations

David A. Shirk, Ph.D.
Director, Trans-Border Institute
University of San Diego

Excerpts from the hearing

Senator Carper (D-DE)
Q. Is the border more secure? Can we do better? Sure we can do better. What might be a consensus abut a metric or a series of metrics that are more reasonable, more effective, more appropriate?
Witness Meissner: This issue of metrics absolutely paramount at this point. And DHS has been far too cautious. CBP has been very risk averse. I understand the caution. We recognize what the issues are. One of the things about metrics and data, it has to be used, it has to be validated. . . If there was one measure, it would be measure of the flow, it's what those in the trade call the magic of the denominator. We have to know what the apprehensions are in percentage of what number. Some of this can happen in an iterative way if things begin to be shared... The flow and how many individuals are represented by the apprehensions numbers, and those I would argue are within reach.
Witness Shirk: I would agree as well. We can't ascertain with the apprehension rate the rate of recidivism. Data should be made available to researchers so we can do analysis. In 1990, we had about 9000 agents, there were making 150+ arrests per agent. If you flash forward 20,000+ agents on the border, they are arresting 15 undocumented immigrants per agent. The ideal would be to have a less number of agents with the less number of arrests.

Senator McCain (R-AZ)
Dr, I agree with you that we need to have CIR. All of our witnesses would agree with that. It's beyond my understand why DHS would not publically disclose the information that is necessary to all Americans this issues of flow and how many we apprehend and how many we turn back. If we pass CIR, that would be one of the provisions of that legislation that that information be made public to all Americans.
Q. Do you know a better way of ascertaining the effectiveness rate than apprehensions and turn backs? Is there a better way to achieve that metrics.
Witness Doris: As far as I know those are the key ideas. Along with David's idea of recidivism. That's what we have. Having them will put us way far forward
Witness Alden: Three methods are needs. One are these BP observations, we need similar transparency with recidivist data. Then finally we need to make serious effort into migrant surveys. Surveys are really important to understand what the migrants are thinking. We're really moving from resource build up to ongoing law enforcement management
Witness Shirk: Seizure data, we don't have publically available information on seizure data, drug/gun trafficking in and between ports of entry.
Survey data is very very important of getting an idea of the population (undocumented) and the people moving in and out of that population

Senator McCain (R-AZ)
Q: In 1986, I was around here, and we passed legislation that quote gave amnesty to 3 million Americans. This obviously emphasizes the importance this time around of border security. I agree with everyone here, I'm not sure if we need additional people, but I think we've learned a lot in Iraq and Afghanistan on technology. But I also think we need a measurement, probably through effectiveness rate, to reassure the American people that we have 905 effectiveness rate in controlling the border. We're only looking at 3 sectors who don't have the 90% effectiveness rate.
Witness Alden: I want to caution against looking forward a single number. We can have multiple numbers. Chief Fisher put out this 90% number based on known flow rates. A problem with that number is it is under-measured. It's also the most subjective. Multiple measures, including the recidivists data that are more objectives, we have to use this data together effectively. I would caution against establishing target effectiveness ratio.

[Senator Carper- question on Ports of Entry]
Witness Alden: With increasing personnel at ports of entry, You get better security, but you also get greater efficiency. So unlike increases in the number of Border Patrol, when the only purpose is to stop illegal activity, at the ports, you get both stopping illegal activity and facilitating legal activity. Analysis would show that money would be better spent at ports of entry.
Witness Doris: The ports of the entry on the land border, the air ports of entry are working reasonably well. The land ports of entry deal with these mass number of people. They are dealing with the full range of reasons people are coming. The ports of entry are much tougher. It is a major infrastructure job. You have to have enough space, that's a multi-year build-up. It is money that would need to go to GSA, not any of the immigration agencies.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 13031352.