Confronting the Surge with Enforcement, or Enforcement Theater?

By Dan Cadman on November 15, 2016

The federal government is reassigning approximately 150 Border Patrol agents on temporary duty to assist the Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol sector. The agents will help get a handle on the flood of aliens attempting illegal entry into the United States before the Trump administration takes office and, we have been promised, border security will be taken seriously.

The aliens' surge is no surprise. Actually it's been going on for many months, though without much press visibility, quite possibly because our friends in the mainstream media didn't want to air anything that might help tip the election toward Donald Trump.

Truth be told, this is a continuation of the very same surge of aliens that began in 2013 and that briefly held public attention in 2014, before the Obama administration took its usual course by dropping an invisibility cloak over the whole mess while quietly laundering these aliens into the interior at great expense to the taxpayer.

Many of these arrivals are Central American, and so-called unaccompanied minors — but when one examines things closely, many of these "minors" don't look any more under-aged or vulnerable than those scamming the system in Europe to make their way into Britain. What's more, even when technically minors, a significant number are on the cusp of the legal age of majority and have been making their way in their own countries for quite some time, maturity coming earlier in less-developed countries as it often must. Some also have deeply disturbing gang affiliations.

Sadly, the consequences of this for American communities who are obliged, often without the least consultation, to absorb these individuals can be quite negative, as Center for Immigration Studies Executive Director Mark Krikorian noted in a recent National Review piece. (If readers haven't done so, I encourage them to read the full piece on which Krikorian's remarks are based: a recent Backgrounder by Center Fellow Joe Kolb, here.)

But to get back to the matter at hand: the temporary reassignment of patrol agents into the Rio Grande Valley, which has been and continues to be the hotspot for the entries:

First, it's a kind of robbing-Peter-to-pay-Paul exercise. As the official announcement makes clear, "The additional agents are detailed from Tucson, San Diego, and Del Rio Sectors." Why do that? It's not like other southern border sectors don't have their hands full. Taking agents from these sectors instead of, say, from select northern border sectors, becomes a balloon-squeezing exercise. One part of the balloon goes down; the other side immediately goes up.

Second, it really doesn't seem like enough people. Consider that they will have to work in shifts. Splitting them into three eight-hour shifts per day (they will actually work more like 10 hours daily, with some overlap between the shifts of on-duty agents, but you have to tally for three shifts), that's really only 50 additional agents per shift for a huge sector that patrols over 320 miles directly at the river frontier with Mexico, and that extends significantly back and upward into east Texas (as well as through a number of metropolitan areas). The additional personnel allocation doesn't seem like much, looked at in that light.

Finally, I'd like with all my heart to believe in this operational assignment, to be able to invest in the idea that in the final months of this administration, they've seen the light, and that it is a harbinger of change toward real border enforcement. But what my heart wants to believe, my head rejects. Why would the leopard change its spots at this late date? It defies reason and seems to me just another absurd exercise at controlling public outrage rather than controlling the border.

More likely is that all these agents will be allowed to do is continue engaging in a sophisticated catch-and-release program, processing the aliens (often without having served them charging documents to appear in immigration court) only to pass them along for long-term resettlement.

Until I see proof, real proof, to the contrary, I will have to believe this is one last shell game in the waning days of an outrageous and ineffectual administration steadfastly pursuing its transformational agenda against the headwinds of the election.