To President Barack Obama, securing the border is a laughing matter -- and a lying matter.
When Obama spoke in El Paso, Texas, yesterday, he claimed that (1) the federal government has now "basically" completed the border fence that security minded Republicans wanted built and (2) El Paso and other border communities are "among the safest in the nation."
"They wanted a fence. Well, the fence ... is now basically complete," said Obama.
"Maybe they'll need a moat," he added. "Maybe they want alligators in the moat."
"El Paso and other cities and towns along this border are consistently among the safest in the nation," said Obama. What are the facts?
In 2006, Congress passed -- and President George W. Bush signed -- the Secure Fence Act, sponsored by House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King, R-N.Y.
King explained it on the House floor. "It provides over 700 miles of two-layered reinforced fencing," he said. "It also mandates that the Department of Homeland Security achieve and maintain operational control over the entire border through a virtual fence, deploying cameras, ground sensors, unmanned aerial vehicles, integrated surveillance technology."
The original law left little to interpretation by the homeland security secretary. It said "'operational control' means the prevention of all unlawful entries into the United States."
It defined the type of fence to be built: The "secretary of Homeland Security shall provide for least 2 layers of reinforced fencing, the installation of additional physical barriers, roads, lighting, cameras, and sensors."
So, did the secretary seek to gain operational control of the entire border? Did the secretary build over 700 miles of two-layered reinforced fencing?
The answers are: No and no.
As noted in this column last week, Richard Stana, director of homeland security issues for the Government Accountability Office, informed the Senate Homeland Security Committee in March that there are only 129 miles of the 1,954-mile-long U.S.-Mexico border where the Border Patrol can prevent or stop an illegal entry from taking place at the border itself. There are another 744 miles where it can stop an illegal entry at "distances of up to 100 miles or more away from the immediate border."
That leaves at least 1,081 miles of border where Homeland Security has anything but "operational control."