Immigration News 2015: 'Historic Levels' of Agents for Border Security, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson Says
U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary (DHS) Jeh Johnson provided a border security update last week, including the DHS' enforcement policies following President Barack Obama's immigration executive actions of 2014.
"Border security is a core mission of the [DHS]," said Johnson in a statement.
"The Department has deployed historic levels of front-line personnel, technology, and infrastructure to the border to reduce the flow of illegal immigrants and illicit contraband while, at the same time, fostering legal trade and travel."
Johnson mentioned the "administrative actions" he instructed following Obama's executive actions, which includes the establishment of a new DHS-wide enforcement policy prioritizing apprehension, detention and removal of individuals who have crossed the border, especially convicted criminals and threats to national security. Johnson also recognized the increased partnerships with foreign governments and the department's new U.S. Southern Border and Approaches campaign in securing the southwest border.
"Our progress in securing the southwest border is further evidenced by the collaboration we see with our regional partners," Johson said.
"[President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden], I, and others have all engaged the governments of Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to improve collaboration and effectiveness of overall enforcement efforts, increase border management and investigative capacity, and to support awareness campaigns in the region which highlight the dangers of crossing the border illegally.
"During the first six months of fiscal year 2015, the number of total apprehensions along the southwest border, which is a strong indicator of total attempts to cross the border illegally, was 28 percent lower than total apprehensions during the same period in fiscal year 2014," Johnson continued.
"Longer term, border apprehensions in the first six months of fiscal year 2015 are a fraction of where they were fifteen years ago, when, in fiscal year 2000, a total of 1.6 million people were apprehended attempting to cross the southern border."
Since the start of the 2015 fiscal year until March 31, Johnson revealed 151,805 apprehensions were made across the southern border, which is down 28 percent -- or 60,000 apprehensions -- in comparison to the same timeframe during the 2014 fiscal year.
"This overall downturn in apprehensions on the southwest border is manifesting itself in specific regions as well," Johnson said, noting Texas, responsible for nearly 61 percent of the overall southwest-border apprehensions, encountered a "dramatic" decrease in apprehensions. The decrease also occurred in the apprehension of undocumented unaccompanied immigrant children. Apprehension of undocumented unaccompanied children across the southwest border during the first six months of the 2015 fiscal year was recorded at 15,627, which is 45 percent lower compared to the same period in 2014's fiscal year.
According to Johnson, the DHS border patrol currently has the largest deployment of aircraft, boats, people, vehicles and equipment in comparison to its 90-year history. He said there are approximately 21,000 border agents, more than double from 2004's 10,000 agents. In addition, Johnson noted the fencing on the southwest border extends 702 miles, significantly larger than the 77 miles in 2000.
"But, as I have said many times before, we are not declaring mission accomplished when it comes to border security," Johnson aid. "There is more work to be done as there are still individuals crossing our border illegally. The [DHS] will continue to focus our enforcement resources on recent border crossers, along with public safety and national security threats. We are working to sustain and strategically deploy the added border security that we have put into place and are able to do so more effectively in light of [Obama's] November [executive] actions."
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