DHS Has Nothing Good to Say About the Border, Again

By Janice Kephart on April 16, 2012

I wonder how unimpressive the Secretary of Homeland Security can continue to be on borders? I got the answer this week: amazingly unimpressive. The latest? Every Friday or Monday the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) puts out a bulletin of its latest activities. I scour it every week hoping to find some initiative the Secretary has launched that really will improve security. Unfortunately, most of the time the secretary is breaking ground on a new facility somewhere, giving an award to a trusted employee, or simply relating congressional testimony of the week. Rarely do I find substance.

However, at the top of the April 9 DHS Bulletin was the headline "Secretary Napolitano Highlights Strategy to Secure the Southwest Border while Facilitating Legitimate Trade and Travel". Here's the bulletin's teaser:

During her remarks, Secretary Napolitano discussed the important steps taken by the Obama administration to strengthen and secure the Southwest border. "Taken as a whole, our strategy represents the most serious and sustained action to secure our border in our nation's history, and every key measure indicates that this approach is working. The challenges we face at the border are real, but so too is the progress we've made." — Secretary Napolitano

Interesting, I thought, some news on borders.

  • Maybe Napolitano has announced a replacement for the Secure Border Initiative she killed last year with proven infrastructure that would help prevent border teams from having to chase drug runners in mountains like the one that resulted in the tragic and unnecessary death of Brian Terry. The Terry tragedy was doubled when it was learned that the guns that killed him were bought by cartel members while the government watched during the Fast and Furious debacle.

  • Maybe new technologies will be deployed to catch similar criminal activity in open spaces closer to the border.

  • Maybe Napolitano has answered congressional requests that returning, used dual-use military equipment that the Border Patrol and state law enforcement agencies do not have be deployed to the southwest border to counter cross-border drug cartel shipments of humans, drugs, money, and weapons.

  • Maybe there will be an announcement that, in light of growing pressure from cartels and the mistakes of Fast and Furious, DHS, Treasury, and the Justice Department are working together on a policy of integrating border (Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement), drug (Drug Enforcement Agency), and weapons policy (Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Agency) to truly target drug cartel activity on the border.

  • Maybe the secretary will provide a long overdue acknowledgement and appreciation of the millions of dollars in cross-border drug busts coming almost weekly out of the San Diego area.

But her remarks, were just a few paragraphs of a press release. Nothing substantive other than lower apprehension numbers — which are not necessarily an indicator of lower illegal immigration flows unless the Border Patrol is consistently doing their job, which they are not in this administration. A mention of the deployment of the National Guard is long overdue, but considering the Guard's limited tenure and mission, much narrower than in prior administrations, there is not much meat on that bone either. The only other substantive statement is of the 2010 border declaration signed between President Obama and Mexican President Calderon; yet even there, no mention of implementing that agreement.

Alas, not much of a take-away, after all.