Measuring Progress in Border Security – A Good Start from the GAO

Border Fence Arizona and MexicoBy Edward Alden, 1/15/2013

How hard is it for migrants to cross the southwest border illegally and enter into the United States? That question has long been difficult to answer, but it is one that has become more urgent as Congress prepares once again to consider a broader immigration reform. A new report from the Government Accountability Office gives a surprising assessment – that it appears to have become far more difficult than most Americans realize.

The GAO report is the first to assess the number of successful illegal entries across the border using a method called “known illegal entries,” or “known flow” for short. The number of illegal entries is the key statistic that matters in the debate over border enforcement. The U.S. government has for many years reported the number of “apprehensions” at the border – arrests of those attempting to enter illegally. Last year, that number fell to 327,000 at the southwest border, the lowest since 1972. While the decline in apprehensions from its 2001 peak of more than 1.6 million certainly suggests that many fewer people are trying to cross illegally, it tells us nothing definitive about the numbers who are still successfully evading the Border Patrol between the ports of entry and entering the United States.

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Security Cooperation Resources: GAO Documents

January 1, 2012

U.S.-Mexico security cooperation has increased dramatically as a byproduct of the Mérida Initiative, a security cooperation initiative between the United States and Mexico. The Initiative was designed to strengthen cooperation and build trust among countries in the region to better combat drug trafficking and organized crime. The following are GAO documents on U.S.-Mexico security cooperation and the Mérida Initiative.


Border Patrol Projects Caught Up for Months in Red Tape, Government Study Shows

Fox News, 10/5/2010

Border Patrol agents trying to keep up with the pace of illegal immigration along the southwest border have gotten stuck in a kind of bureaucratic limbo, with a new government report showing federal regulations have stalled projects for months.

In one case, it took the Bureau of Land Management almost eight months to issue a permit allowing Border Patrol to move an underground sensor in New Mexico. In another, Border Patrol officials were denied permission to improve maintenance on roads and surveillance in California, forcing the patrol routes north. In another, it took more than four months for the agency to get permission to move “mobile” surveillance in Arizona — by that time, illegal immigrant traffic had shifted.

These anecdotes are included as part of a Government Accountability Office study, a draft version of which was obtained by The report was commissioned to review lawmakers’ concerns that environmental and preservation regulations are hampering efforts to secure the border and found that those regulations had in fact limited agents’ access to the land they’re supposed to patrol.

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Two New Reports Featured on the Mexico Institute’s Mérida Initiative Portal

Mexico Institute, 12/3/09

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report today on the slow pace of Merida Initiative assistance to Mexico, Central America, Haiti and the Dominican Republic. According to the GAO report, while nearly two-thirds of the appropriated funds for the Merida Initiative had been obligated, only about two percent had been expended as of September 30. This amounted to $26 million of a total $1.2 billion appropriated by Congress. Read more of the GAO Report…

El Centro de Investigación para el Desarrollo A.C. (CIDAC) released the “Índice de Incidencia Delictiva y Violencia 2009,” which provides an in-depth, comprehensive view of crime statistics in Mexico. Read more of the CIDAC Report…

For more Mérida Initiative-related background reports, analysis, official documents, congressional hearings, and other resources, as well as information on U.S.-Mexico security cooperation generally, please visit The Mexico Institute’s Mérida Initiative Portal

Failures in U.S. War on Drugs Revealed (in Spanish)

Reforma, 4/21/2009

720px-us-governmentaccountabilityoffice-logosvgA report released today by the U.S. Congress warns of the lack of coordination between government agencies in the fight against drugs.

The document showes signs of power struggles between the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and agencies within the Department of Homeland Security.

Released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), an arm of the U.S. Congress, the report highlighted failures in intelligence sharing, development of investigations, and payments of informants in various countries.

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