By Raoul Lowery Contreras
The Border Patrol has been ordered to shut down its highway checkpoint system away from the border. It says it can’t staff it and the border, swamped as it is by Central American asylum seekers.
The Border Patrol has exploded from 4,000 personnel in 1990 to almost 20,000 today. That’s agents, not total employment. President George W. Bush alone doubled the size of the patrol from about 10,000 in 2001 to just over 20,000 when he left the White House in 2009.
The Border Patrol is part of Customs and Border Protection within the Department of Homeland Security. CBP’s total manpower is currently 43,000, of which over 19,000 are currently Border Patrol agents. And there are thousands of open positions.
President Trump has ordered the hiring of 5,000 new Border Patrol agents and 10,000 more immigration enforcement officers. Unfortunately several factors make that order almost impossible to fill. It currently takes 282 days to hire ONE new agent. That looks bad, but in comparison to 2013, when it took 420 days, the process is taking less time by half.
Trump has also ordered over 5,000 U.S. military and National Guard troops to the border to help the Border Patrol. These troops are unable to directly assist with law enforcement, but can help in other ways.
Federal law — the Posse Comitatus Act — prohibits military enforcement of civilian laws; immigration enforcement is civilian per the Constitution.
Trump cited national security in ordering troops to the border, but ironically the Marine Corps commandant says this assignment requires cuts in training and therefore presents a risk to combat readiness.
With 19,000 agents, authorization to hire 5,000 more, and 5,000 soldiers helping, why can’t the Border Patrol do its job?
Apprehensions are at almost a forty-year-low and just 25 percent of the peak illegal immigration wave in 2000, yet there are five times as many agents as in 1990. Just what is this Army division-sized group of agents doing?
To be clear, the people flowing across the border in recent months are different than in previous years. The flow used to be Mexican men aged 16 to 40 with a 6th grade education. They came to work in agriculture, and used to go home after crops were harvested. Some stayed, and some brought their families.
Concurrently, the Border Patrol was given more technology to work with, and some hundreds of miles of fencing that cut illegal border crossings in critical areas like San Diego, El Paso and parts of the Lower Rio Grande Valley. The fencing stopped crossings in the traditional locations, redirecting the mostly male migrants to the mountains and deserts of California, Arizona and New Mexico.
Another critical factor in the lessening of illegal border crossings after the year 2000 is that Mexican men found work in their own country. The global automobile industry found a new home in Mexico. General Motors, Ford and Chrysler have been in Mexico since the 1920s. Nissan, other Japanese car builders and Volkswagen started moving into Mexico in the early 1960s.
Lots of new Mexican jobs in manufacturing cut the Mexican surplus labor supply. Better education helped cut it more.
The 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement blossomed into the best trade agreement in the world. The United States, Canada and Mexico formed the greatest energy colossus in the world even before fracking and shale oil development. NAFTA created a trading partnership that is larger than dreamed of among the three countries. It is a trillion dollars annually now and supports jobs for millions of people in the United States alone.
So now fewer Mexicans are coming to the United States illegally, while Central American women and children are flooding the border crossings, presenting themselves to border agents and voluntarily asking for asylum.
The Border Patrol says it can’t do its job because there are too many women and children to deal with. It reminds this former Marine of an old military saying:
“When in trouble, when in doubt; run in circles, scream and shout.”
Raoul Lowery Contreras is a political consultant and author of the new book White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPS) & Mexicans. His work has appeared in the New American News Service of the New York Times Syndicate.
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