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Border Control: Revised Strategy Is Showing Some Positive Results

(Letter Report, 12/29/94, GAO/GGD-95-30)


Despite law enforcement efforts, the flow of drugs along the southwest
border continues, and unless border control efforts become more
effective, illegal immigration is expected to increase during the next
decade. A 1993 study commissioned by the Office of National Drug Control
Policy recommended that the Border Patrol try to prevent illegal alien
entry rather than catch illegal aliens once they have entered the
country. The study suggested using (1) multiple physical barriers in
some areas to prevent entry and (2) more highway checkpoints and other
measures to prevent drugs and illegal aliens that have entered the
United States from leaving border areas. Officials GAO spoke with
expressed support for a "prevention strategy," and preliminary results
from recent prevention initiatives in San Diego and El Paso are
generally encouraging. However, some drug smuggling and illegal
immigration seem to have been rerouted from these two sectors to other
southwest border areas where enforcement is less effective. In August
1994, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) approved a
national strategy to prevent illegal entry that builds on the agency's
success in San Diego and El Paso. Although this plan appears
encouraging, GAO concludes that it is too early to tell what impact it
will eventually have on drug smuggling and illegal immigration along the
southwest border.

--------------------------- Indexing Terms -----------------------------

 REPORTNUM:  GGD-95-30
     TITLE:  Border Control: Revised Strategy Is Showing Some Positive 
             Results
      DATE:  12/29/94
   SUBJECT:  Illegal aliens
             Detention facilities
             Deportation
             Immigration or emigration
             International relations
             Law enforcement
             Narcotics
             Drug trafficking
IDENTIFIER:  San Diego (CA)
             El Paso (TX)
             INS Operation Hold-the-Line
             
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Cover
================================================================ COVER


Report to the Chairman, Subcommittee on Information, Justice,
Transportation and Agriculture, Committee on Government Operations,
House of Representatives

December 1994

BORDER CONTROL - REVISED STRATEGY
IS SHOWING SOME POSITIVE RESULTS

GAO/GGD-95-30

Border Control Strategy


Abbreviations
=============================================================== ABBREV

  EPIC - El Paso Intelligence Center
  INS - Immigration and Naturalization Service
  JTF-6 - Joint Task Force Six
  ONDCP - Office of National Drug Control Policy

Letter
=============================================================== LETTER


B-259221

December 29, 1994

The Honorable Gary A.  Condit
Chairman, Subcommittee on Information, Justice,
 Transportation and Agriculture
Committee on Government Operations
House of Representatives

Dear Mr.  Chairman: 

This report responds to your request concerning the adequacy of
United States efforts to secure the southwest border.  Specifically,
you asked us to (1) determine the extent of the threat from drug
smuggling and illegal immigration and (2) identify ways to enhance
security between the ports of entry. 


   RESULTS IN BRIEF
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :1

Although the full extent of drug smuggling and illegal immigration is
unknown, both pose a serious threat along the southwest border. 
Experts estimate that most of the cocaine and most of the illegal
aliens entering the United States enter from Mexico across the
southwest border.  Despite law enforcement efforts, the flow of drugs
continues, and unless border control efforts become more effective,
illegal immigration is expected to increase over the next decade. 

A 1993 study commissioned by the Office of National Drug Control
Policy (ONDCP) identified ways to enhance security along the
southwest border between the ports of entry.  The study recommended
that the Immigration and Naturalization Service's (INS) Border Patrol
focus on preventing illegal alien entry instead of on apprehending
aliens once they have entered the country.  To implement this
strategy, the study recommended using (1) multiple physical barriers
in certain areas to prevent entry and (2) additional highway
checkpoints and other measures to prevent drugs and illegal aliens
that succeeded in entering the United States from leaving border
areas.  Previous studies have made similar recommendations. 

There was widespread support for a "prevention strategy" among the
officials with whom we spoke, and preliminary results from recent
prevention initiatives in two Border Patrol sectors--San Diego, CA,
and El Paso, TX--are generally encouraging.  However, some drug
smuggling and illegal immigration seems to have been rerouted from
these two sectors to other southwest border areas where enforcement
is less effective. 

In August 1994, the INS Commissioner approved a national Border
Patrol strategic plan that focuses on preventing illegal entry.  INS'
national strategy builds on the success its San Diego and El Paso
sectors have reportedly had in reducing illegal entry.  INS plans to
implement its strategy in phases over several years, concentrating
initially in the two areas traditionally having the greatest illegal
activity--San Diego and El Paso.  The strategy contains various
indicators with which INS plans to measure the success of its
efforts. 

On the basis of the initial positive results in San Diego and El
Paso, INS' national strategy appears encouraging.  However, since it
will take several years to implement the strategy, it is too early to
tell what impact it will eventually have on drug smuggling and
illegal immigration along the southwest border. 


   BACKGROUND
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :2

Within INS, the Border Patrol is the agency responsible for securing
the border between the ports of entry.  The Border Patrol's mission
is to maintain control of the international boundaries between the
ports of entry by detecting and preventing smuggling and illegal
entry of aliens into the United States.  In addition, in 1991, ONDCP
designated the Border Patrol the primary agency for narcotics
interdiction between the ports of entry. 

To accomplish its mission, the Border Patrol (1) patrols the
international boundaries and (2) inspects passengers and vehicles at
checkpoints located along highways leading from border areas, at bus
and rail stations, and at air terminals.  The Border Patrol uses
vehicles and aircraft to patrol areas between the ports of entry and
electronic equipment, such as sensors and low-light-level
televisions, to detect illegal entry into the country.  The Border
Patrol carries out its mission in 21 sectors.  Nine of these sectors
are located along the southwest border with Mexico.\1 As of September
30, 1994, about 3,747 agents were assigned to the 9 sectors,
representing 88 percent of Border Patrol agents nationwide. 

The following other federal entities support land border control
efforts between the ports of entry along the southwest border. 

El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC), the nation's principal tactical
drug intelligence facility, prepares assessments on the threat of
drug smuggling. 

Operation Alliance prepares border control strategies and coordinates
drug enforcement activities of 17 federal and numerous state and
local law enforcement agencies combating drug smuggling. 

Joint Task Force Six (JTF-6), located in El Paso, coordinates
military support for drug enforcement efforts. 

In September 1991, ONDCP tasked Sandia National Laboratories, through
INS, to do a "systematic analysis of the security along the United
States/Mexico Border between the ports of entry and to recommend
measures by which control of the border could be improved." ONDCP
chose Sandia because of its expertise in designing physical security
systems.  In January 1993, Sandia issued its report entitled
Systematic Analysis of the Southwest Border.  We refer to this as the
Sandia study throughout our report.  According to the study, to
conduct its analysis, Sandia personnel visited all nine Border Patrol
southwest border sectors, toured various Border Patrol facilities,
and interviewed both chief patrol agents and Border Patrol agents. 
They viewed much of the southwest border from either the ground or
the air and reviewed a number of previous studies related to border
control. 


--------------------
\1 These nine sectors are located in San Diego and El Centro, CA;
Yuma and Tucson, AZ; and El Paso, Del Rio, Marfa, Laredo, and
McAllen, TX. 


   OBJECTIVES, SCOPE, AND
   METHODOLOGY
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :3

In addressing our objectives to (1) determine the extent of the
threat from drug smuggling and illegal immigration and (2) identify
ways to enhance security between the ports of entry, we

interviewed intelligence officials responsible for determining the
threat from drug smuggling and illegal immigration and reviewed
related documentation;

reviewed the Sandia study and discussed the study's findings with its
authors and various INS officials responsible for border control;

reviewed EPIC, Department of State, and Operation Alliance reports to
determine the threat from drug smuggling;

visited the San Diego and El Paso Border Patrol sectors and discussed
with sector officials their recent border control initiatives;

analyzed INS data from its management information systems related to
apprehensions and narcotics seizures to obtain additional information
on the threat from drug smuggling and illegal immigration along the
southwest border; and

interviewed INS headquarters officials to determine plans for
improving border security. 

As agreed with the Subcommittee, our focus was control of the land
border between the ports of entry.  We did not evaluate border
control activities at the ports of entry or efforts related to
smuggling by air and sea.  We did not verify the accuracy and
completeness of the data we obtained from INS' management information
systems. 

We did our work between October 1993 and September 1994 in accordance
with generally accepted government auditing standards.  We discussed
the results of our work with the Acting Chief of the Border Patrol
and other INS officials.  Their comments are presented on page 27. 


   DRUG SMUGGLING AND ILLEGAL
   IMMIGRATION ARE SERIOUS THREATS
   ALONG THE SOUTHWEST BORDER
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :4


      DRUG SMUGGLING
---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :4.1

Although the full extent is unknown, drug smuggling is a serious
threat along the southwest border.  The Department of State's 1993
International Narcotics Control Strategy Report indicated that Mexico
is a transit country for South American cocaine destined for the
United States and a major country of origin for heroin and marijuana. 
According to the report, between 50 and 70 percent of the cocaine
smuggled into the United States transited Mexico, entering primarily
by land across the southwest border.  In addition, about 23 percent
of the heroin smuggled into the United States originated in Mexico. 

INS data showed that Border Patrol narcotics seizures along the
southwest border have risen over the last few years.  Between fiscal
years 1990 and 1993, the number of Border Patrol narcotics seizures
rose from around 4,200 to around 6,400, an increase of about 50
percent.  The amount of cocaine seized nearly doubled from about
14,000 pounds in 1990 to about 27,000 pounds in 1993. 

According to a June 1992 Operation Alliance report,\2 the primary
smuggling route across the southwest border was by land.  The report
pointed out that although cocaine was the primary drug threat,
followed by marijuana, the heroin threat was growing.  The report
stated that in spite of law enforcement agencies' efforts to counter
drug smuggling, the flow of drugs between the ports of entry along
the southwest border continued due to vast open areas and a
relatively low law enforcement presence.  The report concluded that
"our successes are insignificant when compared to the threat.  Our
collective efforts are currently only a minor irritant to the
smugglers."

The Sandia study deemed drug smuggling a serious threat all along the
southwest border.  For example, the study deemed drug smuggling a
serious threat in south Texas and the southern Arizona border area,
which is dubbed "Cocaine Alley." Figure 1 shows the seizure of over
1,000 pounds of cocaine by Border Patrol agents in San Diego.  Figure
2 shows a panel truck stopped by El Paso Border Patrol agents (see
fig.  2A), with narcotics hidden in its interior panels (see fig. 
2B).  Agents seized nearly 250 pounds of marijuana (see fig.  2C). 



(See figure in printed edition.)Figure 1:  Cocaine, Totaling 1,009
Pounds, Seized by Border Patrol Agents at Campo Station, San Diego
Sector, February 1994

Source:  Border Patrol. 



(See figure in printed edition.)Figure 2:  Marijuana, in 50 Bundles
Totaling 247 Pounds, Seized by Border Patrol Agents, El Paso Sector,
May 1994

Source:  Border Patrol. 


--------------------
\2 Southwest Border Drug Control Strategy II, Operation Alliance,
June 1992. 


      ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION
---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :4.2

Illegal immigration is also a serious threat to the United States. 
In 1993, we estimated that the total inflow of illegal aliens into
this country in 1988 ranged from 1.3 million to 3.9 million.\3 The
major component of the inflow, 1.2 million to 3.2 million, was
Mexicans crossing the southwest border, with most entering between
the ports of entry.  Much of the inflow represented short-term visits
to the United States. 

In June 1994, INS estimated there were about 3.8 million undocumented
migrants residing in the United States.  About half of the unlawful
residents entered unlawfully across the borders, while the other half
entered as visitors but did not leave.  The estimates were based on
an analysis of INS and Bureau of the Census data and, according to
INS, experts have embraced these estimates as the best available. 

The 1993 Sandia study characterized the southwest border as "being
overrun." For example, in the San Diego sector, the study noted that
as many as 6,000 aliens attempted to enter the United States
illegally every night along the first 7-1/2 miles of border beginning
at the Pacific Ocean.  One of the reasons given in the study for this
situation was that most of the border fencing in the San Diego sector
and other urban areas was "poorly maintained" and "totally
ineffective" (see fig.  3).  However, as discussed on page 15, INS
recently completed a new fence in the San Diego sector and plans
additional fencing in other sectors. 



(See figure in printed edition.)Figure 3:  Ineffective Fencing in the
San Diego Sector Before Recent Border Patrol Initiatives

Source:  Border Patrol. 

Border Patrol apprehensions along the southwest border declined
between 1986 and 1989 but, although still below the 1986 level,
apprehensions have gradually risen since then (see fig.  4).  Figure
5 illustrates the prominence of the San Diego and El Paso sectors as
border-crossing locations.  In fiscal year 1993, these two sectors
accounted for two-thirds of the 1.2 million southwest border
apprehensions. 

   Figure 4:  Southwest Border
   Apprehensions Rising Since 1989

   (See figure in printed
   edition.)

Source:  Border Patrol data. 

   Figure 5:  Most 1993 Southwest
   Border Apprehensions Occurred
   in the San Diego and El Paso
   Sectors

   (See figure in printed
   edition.)

Source:  Border Patrol data. 

Although the southwest border is approximately 1,600 miles long, much
of it is difficult to cross by foot or vehicle due to rugged terrain,
desert, or natural barriers such as some portions of the Rio Grande
River.  Our analysis of INS data showed that in fiscal year 1992 over
half of all southwest border apprehensions occurred along only 18 of
the 1,600 border miles--13 miles along the border between San Diego
and Tijuana, Mexico, and 5 miles along the border between El Paso and
Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.  However, as we discussed on pages 23 to 25,
recent border control initiatives in San Diego and El Paso appear to
have rerouted some illegal immigrants to other southwest border
areas. 

Unless border control efforts become more effective, illegal
immigration is expected to increase.  In September 1993, we reported
that the flow of illegal aliens across the southwest border is
expected to increase during the next decade because Mexico's economy
is unlikely to absorb all of the new job seekers that are expected to
enter the labor force.\4


--------------------
\3 Illegal Aliens:  Despite Data Limitations, Current Methods Provide
Better Population Estimates (GAO/PEMD-93-25, Aug.  5, 1993).  Due to
data limitations, 1988 was the most recent year for which we could
make a reliable estimate. 

\4 North American Free Trade Agreement:  Assessment of Major Issues,
Volume 2 (GAO/GGD-93-137, Sept.  9, 1993). 


   SANDIA STUDY RECOMMENDED
   CHANGING BORDER CONTROL TACTICS
   FROM APPREHENDING ALIENS TO
   PREVENTING ILLEGAL ENTRY
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :5

The Border Patrol's traditional tactic of discouraging illegal entry
has been to apprehend aliens once they have entered the United
States.  According to the Sandia study's authors, this tactic was
inefficient and diminished the Border Patrol's ability to control the
border.  In addition, the authors said the only good border control
strategy is one that prevents people from crossing the border.  The
study concluded that the way to prevent illegal entry is to impose
"effective barriers on the free flow of traffic." The study noted
that where it is not possible or practical to keep drugs and illegal
aliens from entering the United States, they should be stopped at the
earliest opportunity.  In addition, the Sandia study concluded that
"control of the illegal alien and drug traffic can be gained" and
recommended that the Border Patrol change its tactics from
apprehending illegal aliens after they have entered the United States
to preventing illegal entry into the United States. 


      USE MULTIPLE BARRIERS AND
      MORE CHECKPOINTS
---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :5.1

A goal of a "prevention" strategy would be to significantly increase
the difficulty of crossing the border illegally.  The Sandia study
concluded that single barriers, which had been used thus far, had not
proven effective in preventing either drugs or illegal aliens from
entering the country.  Consequently, the study recommended (1)
multiple lighted barriers in urban border areas to prevent the entry
of large volumes of drugs and illegal aliens, with patrol roads
between the barriers and (2) enhanced checkpoint operations to
prevent those drugs and illegal aliens that succeeded in crossing the
border from leaving the border area.  (See fig.  6 for an artist's
illustration of the Sandia study's proposed three-fence barrier
system.)

   Figure 6:  Artist's
   Illustration of the Three-Fence
   Barrier System

   (See figure in printed
   edition.)

   Source:  January 1993 Sandia
   National Laboratories' study.

   (See figure in printed
   edition.)

According to the Sandia study, multiple barriers in urban areas would
provide the Border Patrol a greater ability to (1) discourage a
significant number of illegal border crossers, (2) detect intruders
early and delay them as long as possible, and (3) channel a
significantly reduced level of traffic to places where border patrol
agents can adequately deal with it.  The Sandia study recommended
multiple barriers along approximately 90 miles, or less than 6
percent of the southwest border. 

Because of rugged terrain, segments of the southwest border cannot be
controlled at the immediate border.  The alternative the Sandia study
recommended for these areas is to use highway checkpoints to contain
those aliens who cross the border illegally.  The study recommended
more checkpoints be established and that all operate full time.  The
Border Patrol's use of part-time checkpoints allows violators to
cross unobserved after the checkpoint is closed. 

Except for the proposed multiple-fence system, many of the Sandia
study's recommendations were not new and, according to Border Patrol
officials, had been made previously by their own personnel.  For
example, a January 1989 study recommended many of the same measures
such as barriers, checkpoints, and enhanced electronic surveillance
equipment.  The study was conducted by a retired head of the Border
Patrol for the Federation for American Immigration Reform.\5


--------------------
\5 Ten Steps to Securing America's Borders, Federation for American
Immigration Reform, January 1989, Washington, D.C. 


   RESOURCES REQUIRED TO IMPLEMENT
   SANDIA STUDY'S RECOMMENDATIONS
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :6

The Sandia study estimated it would initially cost an additional $260
million to implement its recommendations with annual recurring costs
of about $69 million.  Most of the initial costs are associated with
physical barriers and checkpoints. 

Ultimately, implementing the Sandia study's recommendations may
require only a slightly larger Border Patrol force.  According to the
study, as physical barriers and checkpoints were completed, the
number of Border Patrol agents required would increase.  However, the
study noted that as control was gained at the border, the number of
agents could be allowed to decrease to a number not significantly
larger than the 3,640 agents that were deployed along the southwest
border when the study began in December 1991. 


   PREVENTION STRATEGY HAS
   WIDESPREAD SUPPORT
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :7

The Border Patrol officials we spoke with (including the acting
chief, acting deputy chief, San Diego and El Paso chief patrol
agents, and a regional Border Patrol official) all agreed with the
Sandia study's conclusion that the Border Patrol should focus on
preventing illegal entry rather than on apprehending illegal aliens. 
In addition, officials of EPIC, Operation Alliance, JTF-6, and the
mayor and police officials of El Paso support the concept of trying
to prevent entry rather than apprehending aliens. 

This strategy is also in line with our past positions on controlling
illegal immigration.  In June 1993, we testified before the House
Subcommittee on International Law, Immigration and Refugees,
Committee on the Judiciary, that "the key to controlling the illegal
entry of aliens is to prevent their initial arrival."\6


--------------------
\6 Immigration Enforcement:  Problems in Controlling the Flow of
Illegal Aliens (GAO/T-GGD-93-39, June 30, 1993). 


   RECENT SAN DIEGO AND EL PASO
   BORDER PATROL INITIATIVES ARE
   CONSISTENT WITH SANDIA STUDY'S
   FINDINGS
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :8

Major Border Patrol initiatives in the San Diego and El Paso sectors
are consistent with the Sandia study's findings.  Both sectors have
begun initiatives that focus on preventing illegal entry rather than
on apprehending aliens. 


      SAN DIEGO SECTOR ERECTED
      PHYSICAL BARRIERS AND
      LIGHTING
---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :8.1

In 1990, the San Diego sector's chief patrol agent began an
initiative to erect physical barriers, primarily to deter drug
smuggling.  With the assistance of JTF-6, the San Diego sector
installed 10-foot welded steel fencing along approximately 14 miles
of border where sector officials believed the majority of drugs and
illegal aliens crossed within the sector.  The new fence, completed
in late 1993, is substantially stronger than previous chain link
fencing.  JTF-6 is also installing high-intensity lights and a second
and third fence at strategic locations along the same 14 miles.  As
of February 1994, JTF-6 had installed lights along about 4-1/2 of the
13 miles. 

The Sandia study recommended similar measures.  For example, the
study recommended that the sector erect multiple lighted physical
barriers along the same stretch of border where the sector erected
its new fence. 


      EL PASO SECTOR INITIATED
      "OPERATION HOLD-THE-LINE"
---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :8.2

Before September 1993, like San Diego, the El Paso sector's strategy
emphasized apprehending aliens rather than preventing illegal entry. 
However, as apprehensions increased so did the opportunities for
confrontation between illegal aliens and El Paso Border Patrol
agents.  These increased opportunities for confrontation led to
allegations of abuse against agents.  Under the sector's apprehension
strategy, El Paso's chief patrol agent told us that the border area
was in "complete chaos." The chief estimated there were up to 8,000
to 10,000 illegal border crossings daily, and only 1 out of 8 aliens
was apprehended. 

The apprehension strategy also created several problems in the
community. 

El Paso citizens and others complained about this approach in
meetings with the sector's chief patrol agent.  They believed that
the Border Patrol did not try to prevent entry but, in fact, used the
increased numbers of apprehensions as a primary factor in justifying
its budget. 

Some local residents felt their civil rights were being violated by
the Border Patrol.  For example, students and teachers at a local
high school filed a federal lawsuit to stop harassment after El Paso
sector agents confronted a coach believing he was an alien
smuggler.\7

Illegal aliens also had a significant impact on the city's crime
rates.  El Paso police officials estimated that undocumented aliens
committed 75 to 80 percent of all auto thefts, as well as many
burglaries.  The Mayor of El Paso told us that illegal immigration
costs the city about $30 to $50 million per year. 

In light of these problems, El Paso's chief patrol agent began an
initiative in September 1993 to change the sector's border control
strategy to one of preventing illegal entry.  The sector stationed
all available agents immediately at a 20-mile stretch of the border
in highly visible Border Patrol vehicles.  The primary goal of the
new strategy--Operation Hold-the-Line--was preventing significant
numbers of aliens from entering the El Paso metropolitan area.\8
Those who still tried to cross the border illegally were routed to
less populated areas where they could be more easily apprehended. 

The El Paso sector's goal of preventing illegal entry is similar to
the one recommended by the Sandia study, although the tactics are
different.  Sandia recommended multiple physical barriers to prevent
entry; the sector employs agents as a human barrier.  However, the
sector eventually plans to construct additional lighted fencing,
which is generally consistent with the Sandia study recommendations. 


--------------------
\7 The parties eventually reached an out-of-court settlement. 

\8 Operation Hold-the-Line was initially called "Operation Blockade."


   PREVENTION STRATEGY APPEARS
   ENCOURAGING
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :9

Preliminary results in San Diego and El Paso suggest that the
prevention strategy has reduced illegal entry in these sectors. 
Other benefits include less border crime, less confrontation between
Border Patrol agents and illegal aliens, and strong public support. 


      SAN DIEGO SECTOR
---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :9.1

Although the San Diego sector's border control initiative has not
been fully implemented, indications are that the new tactics are
reducing the number of aliens crossing the border illegally in the
San Diego area.  As shown in figure 7, sector apprehensions were down
20 percent in fiscal year 1994 compared to 1992 and dropped below
1990 levels, the year the sector began implementing its new border
control tactics.  Apprehensions decreased even though the sector
increased the amount of time spent on border enforcement nearly 41
percent between 1990 and 1994. 

   Figure 7:  San Diego Sector's
   Fiscal Year 1994 Border
   Apprehensions Are Down From
   Previous Years

   (See figure in printed
   edition.)

Source:  Border Patrol data. 

Also, apprehensions at highway checkpoints away from the border
declined 24 percent between fiscal years 1990 and 1993 even though
the amount of time spent performing traffic checks increased 22
percent. 

During our review, we toured the most heavily trafficked portion of
the San Diego sector border and found visible evidence of the new
tactics'



(See figure in printed edition.)Figure 8:  Effect of New Initiative
on Illegal Border Crossings in San Diego Sector

effect on illegal border crossing.  As figure 8A shows, before the
new border control tactics, hundreds of aliens would line up along
the U.S.  side of the border during daylight hours, waiting for an
opportunity to go northward.  However, as illustrated in figure 8B,
after the new border patrol tactics were initiated, large groups of
aliens no longer waited to cross during the day, which according to a
Border Patrol official is typical. 

Also, as shown in figure 8C, formerly there were large gaps in border
fencing allowing aliens to easily cross the border.  However, figure
8D shows that these gaps in the fencing have now been closed. 



(See figure in printed edition.)

Source:  Border Patrol. 

In addition, according to San Diego sector officials, violent crime
and confrontations between Border Patrol agents and illegal aliens
have been reduced because the fencing has prevented large groups of
aliens from gathering.  For example, murders in the border areas
adjacent to the fencing dropped from nine in 1990 to none between
1991 and June 1994.  According to the sector's chief patrol agent, as
of February 1994, there had not been any incidents during the last 2
years where San Diego Border Patrol agents had used deadly force
against illegal aliens.  Also, reported incidents of assaults, rapes,
and robberies in this area have declined. 


      EL PASO SECTOR
---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :9.2

El Paso sector officials cited several indications that the sector's
new prevention strategy is working.  For example, according to the
Border Patrol, the number of aliens attempting to illegally cross the
border through the El Paso sector has decreased significantly. 
According to the chief patrol agent, before Operation Hold-the-Line,
there were up to 10,000 illegal border crossings daily.  In February
1994, the sector estimated that only about 500 people a day were
illegally crossing the border.  A March 1994 sector intelligence
report indicated the new strategy had deterred many aliens in
Mexico's interior from coming to the El Paso border area. 

There has been a sharp drop in El Paso sector apprehensions since
implementation of its new strategy.  As figure 9 shows, the El Paso
sector's illegal alien apprehensions in fiscal year 1994 were down 72
percent compared to fiscal year 1993.  Two factors influencing this
decrease are the deterrent effect of the new border control strategy
and, as discussed on pages 23 to 25, the rerouting of some illegal
aliens to other southwest border areas. 

   Figure 9:  El Paso Sector's
   Fiscal Year 1994 Border
   Apprehensions Are Down Sharply
   From Previous Years

   (See figure in printed
   edition.)

Source:  Border Patrol data. 

According to sector officials, many illegal border crossers try to
leave El Paso via the airport.  With the implementation of the
prevention strategy in the El Paso sector, the number of
apprehensions made at El Paso's International Airport was
significantly reduced, indicating that fewer aliens are crossing the
border illegally in El Paso.  According to INS data, in fiscal year
1993, the sector averaged about 3,700 apprehensions a month at the
airport.  As of June 1994, the sector was averaging about 700
apprehensions a month, an 81-percent decrease. 

The El Paso public strongly supports the sector's new strategy.  A
poll taken in February 1994 showed 84 percent in favor of the
sector's strategy.\9 Complaints against the Border Patrol from both
local residents and illegal aliens have decreased since the start of
Operation Hold-the-Line.  According to sector officials, only one
allegation of abuse was made in the first 5 months of the operation. 
Although they did not have any specific data, local police officials
said complaints to the police department of harassment by Border
Patrol officers are "way down."

Police officials also attribute a drop in certain crimes to Operation
Hold-the-Line.  For example, there were nearly one-third fewer
burglaries and one-fourth fewer motor vehicle thefts in the 3 months
after the operation began in September 1993 than in the same 3 months
in 1992. 

Two studies also concluded that Operation Hold-the-Line has been
successful in deterring illegal immigration in El Paso.\10 A December
1993 study of Operation Hold-the-Line by the Center for Immigration
Studies concluded that the operation "has proven to be successful"
and the new preventative deployment was "both more humane and more
effective." According to this study, the operation represented a
viable long-term approach to more successful border control.  A July
1994 study requested by the U.S.  Commission on Immigration Reform
found that the operation significantly reduced illegal crossings and
had resulted in less crime and fewer allegations against Border
Patrol agents in El Paso.  In addition, the study found that the
strategy has broad public support.  However, the study also found
that the redeployment of agents and longer work shifts have eroded
morale among agents, and the strategy is labor-intensive.  Any
expansion without additional agents would stretch present resources. 

Although successful in significantly reducing illegal entry into El
Paso, according to sector officials, the new strategy weakened some
sector operations.  For example, the El Paso sector took important
resources from checkpoint operations resulting in some checkpoints
being closed over 50 percent of the time.  The Sandia study, however,
recommended that El Paso increase the number of checkpoints and
operate all checkpoints 24 hours a day. 


--------------------
\9 An exit poll of democratic primary voters taken on February 26 and
27, 1994.  Poll conducted by Kaigh Associates, El Paso. 

\10 Martin, John L., "Operation Blockade:  A Bullying Tactic or a
Border Control Model?," BACKGROUNDER, Center For Immigration Studies,
Washington, D.C., Dec.  1993 and Frank D.  Bean et al, "Illegal
Mexican Migration and the United States Mexico Border:  The Effects
of Operation Hold-the-Line on El Paso/Juarez," Population Research
Center, University of Texas at Austin, July 15, 1994. 


   SAN DIEGO AND EL PASO SECTORS'
   INITIATIVES HAVE REROUTED DRUGS
   AND ALIENS TO OTHER SOUTHWEST
   BORDER AREAS
----------------------------------------------------------- Letter :10

The San Diego and El Paso sectors' initiatives appear to have
rerouted drugs and illegal aliens to other parts of the southwest
border.  For example, the July 1994 study of Operation Hold-the- Line
found that the operation had less of an effect on those illegal
aliens headed for the interior of the United States.  These aliens
apparently adapted to the prevention strategy by finding new routes
into the United States. 

In addition, interviews with apprehended illegal aliens have revealed
that smugglers are now telling those traveling from the interior of
Mexico that it is easier to cross into Nogales, AZ, rather than into
San Diego or El Paso, according to Tucson's Deputy Chief Patrol
Agent.  In addition, according to the deputy, some smugglers are
reported to be moving their operations from San Diego to Nogales. 

A comparison of Tucson and El Paso sector apprehensions appears to
support the premise that the recent San Diego and El Paso initiatives
have increased illegal entry through other southwest border sectors. 
As figure 10 shows, since the start of the initiative in the El Paso
sector, Tucson sector apprehensions have increased about 50 percent
(about 93,000 in fiscal year 1993 compared to 139,000 in fiscal year
1994).  El Paso apprehensions, on the other hand, dropped 72 percent
(about 286,000 to about 80,000 over the same period). 

   Figure 10:  Tucson Sector's
   Fiscal Year 1994 Border
   Apprehensions Have Increased as
   El Paso Apprehensions Have
   Dropped

   (See figure in printed
   edition.)

Source:  Border Patrol data. 

Another indication that illegal alien entry may be moving to other
sectors is that while the San Diego sector's fiscal year 1993
apprehensions were 6 percent lower than fiscal year 1992,
apprehensions in the remaining southwest border sectors increased
about 17 percent (see fig.  11). 

   Figure 11:  San Diego Sector's
   Fiscal Year 1993 Border
   Apprehensions Have Declined
   While Other Southwest Border
   Sectors' Have Increased

   (See figure in printed
   edition.)

Source:  Border Patrol data. 

Drug trafficking has also apparently been affected.  According to
EPIC's December 1993 Monthly Threat Brief, El Paso's Operation
Hold-the-Line has lead to changes in smuggling methods.  Instead of
fording the Rio Grande River, some smugglers have attempted to move
drugs through ports of entry and to areas east and west of El Paso,
around the sector's 20-mile line of agents. 

According to a San Diego sector official, the new fence has virtually
eliminated the number of drug and alien smugglers driving across the
border in the San Diego area.  However, the sector has noticed an
increase in drug smuggling in the mountainous areas east of San
Diego.  In addition, the amount of cocaine seized in the El Centro
sector, the sector adjacent to San Diego, increased dramatically from
698 pounds in fiscal year 1991 to nearly 18,000 pounds in fiscal year
1993. 


   INS' NATIONAL BORDER CONTROL
   STRATEGY
----------------------------------------------------------- Letter :11

In August 1994, the INS Commissioner approved a national Border
Patrol strategic plan for gaining control of the nation's borders. 
The strategy focuses on preventing illegal entry and builds on the
success INS has reportedly had in San Diego and El Paso.  INS plans
to put more agents along the border and use more lighting, fencing,
and other barriers.  On the basis of the national border control
strategy, each southwest border sector developed its own strategy
identifying specific actions that need to be taken. 

INS plans to use a phased approach to implementing its border control
strategy.  In its first phase, INS plans to focus its resources in
the two sectors where most illegal immigration has traditionally
occurred--San Diego and El Paso.  As border control is improved in
San Diego and El Paso, INS anticipates that other areas will
experience an increase in illegal entry.  Therefore, the second phase
targets the Tucson sector and the south Texas area.  The third phase
targets the rest of the southwest border, and phase four targets the
rest of the U.S.  border. 

INS has identified certain indicators that it plans to use in each of
these phases to determine whether its efforts are successful.  The
proposed indicators include (1) an eventual reduction in
apprehensions and recidivism, (2) an increase in attempted fraudulent
admissions at ports of entry, (3) a shift in the flow to other
sectors, and (4) fewer illegal immigrants in the interior of the
United States. 

To achieve border control, the strategy recognizes the need to
coordinate with other INS programs as well as other federal agencies
such as the Department of Defense, Customs Service, and the Drug
Enforcement Administration, as well as state and local law
enforcement agencies. 

INS officials told us that it will take several years to implement
the strategy and that INS did not have a specific time frame or cost
figures for these improvements.  INS officials believe that
technology improvements, such as improved fencing and surveillance
cameras, would make border control strategies more effective. 
According to the Acting Chief of the Border Patrol, these
improvements would reduce the need for significant numbers of
additional agents.  INS plans to closely monitor the strategy's
progress to determine the appropriate mix of personnel and other
types of resources needed to gain control of the U.S.  border. 


   CONCLUSIONS
----------------------------------------------------------- Letter :12

We believe the new national border control strategy shows promise for
reducing illegal entry since the strategy (1) builds on the reported
success the San Diego and El Paso sectors have had in reducing
illegal immigration, (2) is consistent with recommendations made in
previous comprehensive studies conducted by border control and
physical security experts, and (3) has widespread public and
government support.  However, since it will take several years to
implement the strategy, it is too early to tell what impact it will
eventually have on drug smuggling and illegal immigration along the
southwest border. 


   AGENCY COMMENTS
----------------------------------------------------------- Letter :13

On October 25, 1994, we met with the Acting Chief of the Border
Patrol and other INS officials to discuss the results of our work. 
These officials generally agreed with the information and conclusions
presented in this report.  They emphasized the importance of
sustained financial support to fully implement the national border
control strategy. 


--------------------------------------------------------- Letter :13.1

We plan no further distribution of this report until 30 days from its
issue date, unless you publicly release its contents earlier.  After
30 days, we will send copies of this report to the Attorney General,
the Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the
Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and other
interested parties.  We will also make copies available to others
upon request. 

Appendix I lists the major contributors to this report.  If you need
additional information on the contents of this report, please contact
me on (202) 512-8757. 

Sincerely yours,

Laurie E.  Ekstrand
Associate Director, Administration
 of Justice Issues


MAJOR CONTRIBUTORS TO THIS REPORT
=========================================================== Appendix I


   GENERAL GOVERNMENT DIVISION,
   WASHINGTON, D.C. 
--------------------------------------------------------- Appendix I:1

Weldon McPhail, Assistant Director, Administration of Justice Issues
Dennise R.  Stickley, Evaluator
David P.  Alexander, Social Science Analyst


   LOS ANGELES REGIONAL OFFICE
--------------------------------------------------------- Appendix I:2

Michael P.  Dino, Evaluator-in-Charge
James R.  Russell, Evaluator