Administration’s Border Strategy Has Yielded Very Strong Results

In light of the recently released GOP Standards for Immigration Reform and ongoing discussion about the safety of the US-Mexico border, NDN and the New Policy Institute have prepared the following backgrounder.  A quick fact sheet on the progress made on the US side of the border in recent years is below, and the full document with charts is attached or available here

A statement from NDN President, Simon Rosenberg:

“As House Republicans begin to put together their approach to immigration reform, it is important for them to acknowledge, as their colleagues in the Senate did this past spring, that tremendous progress has been made on the US-Mexican border over the past decade.  Investments of tens of billions of dollars, better strategies and greater cooperation with Mexico along the border has brought results – the border is much safer, net migration of unauthorized migrants has plummeted, all while trade with Mexico has increased to historic levels.  Given the obvious difficulties of managing this border – 2,000 miles long, containing the busiest land border crossing in the world, and enabling half a trillion dollars of trade each year – the Administration’s track record on the border is a very good one. 

It is important as we enter this debate that we have a fact-based conversation about the US-Mexico border.  Much has gone right.  And if the Republicans have the ideas and the money to improve upon what has done, they should put their plan on the table right now, without delay, and let the debate begin.” 


The Administration’s Border Strategy Has Yielded Very Strong Results


Over the past decade, more money, a better strategy, and enhanced cooperation with Mexico has made the US side of the border far safer, the flow of undocumented migrants over the border has plummeted, and spillover violence is rare.  Despite this historic enforcement buildup, trade with Mexico has exploded, almost doubling in the past 5 years.  Below please find some background data on the very real progress which has been made in recent years.  A series of charts follow.

Key Data Points

A Border Build Up, A Big Decrease in Border Crime – US border enforcement spending has tripled over the last decade from $6.2 billion in 2002 to $18 billion in 2012.  Boots on the ground – border patrol - have doubled from 10,650 in 2004 to 21,300 in 2012.

Despite increasing organized crime violence in Mexico, violent crime on the US side of the border has decreased in the last decade: in the 12 largest border cities, violent crime incidents have dropped by about 25% while population has increased.  The two safest large cities in the entire US (population over 500,000), according to violent crime rates, are El Paso and San Diego, the two largest cities on the US-Mexican border.   Spillover crime from Mexico is rare, and not a significant factor in the border region. 

Unauthorized Flow Has Plummeted, Effectiveness Way Up – In the five high-traffic corridors which experience most of the flow of unauthorized migrants, two already have achieved a 90% effectiveness rate (apprehensions plus turn backs per year divided by the estimated total number of illegal entries per year), and two are over 80%. 

Because of the drop in flow and increase in effectiveness, the apprehension rate per border patrol agent has dropped from 327 in 1993 to just 19 in 2012.

The average annual inflow of unauthorized immigrants is now nearly half of what it was at its height, declining from 550,000 or more to 300,000 over the last decade. 

Total migration from Mexico to the US has decreased by 80% from 770,000 in 2000 to 140,000 in 2010. Net migration with Mexico has dropped to zero or less.

Additionally, this year the US and Mexico just announced they would increase binational security cooperation, including communications and intelligence sharing and, for the first time, joint border patrols of the US-Mexico border.  Mexico has also committed to strengthening its southern border to stop the flow of Central and South American migrants through Mexico to the US.

Trade With Mexico Has Exploded, More Infrastructure Needed To Support This Growth – Meanwhile, goods and services trade with Mexico across this very same fortified border has exploded, growing from $300 billion in 2009 to $536 billion in 2012.  Mexico is now the US’s third largest trading partner.

Mexico is the US’s second largest export market, buying twice the value of US goods that China does, and outspending Japan, Germany, and the UK combined.  6 million US jobs depend on US-Mexico trade.

The FY 2014 budget bill acknowledges the need for more infrastructure spending at the border to facilitate this cross-border trade and tourism.  It appropriated $128 million in for California’s San Ysidro crossing, the world’s busiest land port of entry; funding for an additional 2,000 CBP officers; and it supports a 5-year public-private partnership program, an expansion of a current PPP program, to allow CBP “to enter into partnerships with private sector and government entities at ports of entry,” which could provide additional needed funding.  These measures will allow for increased security, decreased wait lines, a greater flow of trade, and economic growth for the border region and the greater US economy.

Mexico Is Growing, Modernizing – See this fact sheet on Mexico’s economic progress over the past 20 years.  

Also see accompanying charts here.