Study: Data lacking about the true state of border security

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Posted: Feb 20, 2015 6:14 PM
Study: Data lacking about the true state of border security

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Inconsistent and ineffective reporting by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has led to a skewed perception of the state of border security, a bipartisan think tank says.

The Bipartisan Policy Center released a report this week saying the department that oversees Customs and Border Protection and the Border Patrol should use better ways to measure how secure — or not — the border is.

The study was heralded by an immigration task force led by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and Henry Cisneros, former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

"The main thrust of the paper is that after having looked at it, there are a set of outcome-based performance measures that can be calculated and reported by the government right now, and that taken together they would provide a holistic picture of where we are in border security," said Theresa Cardinal Brown, director of immigration policy at the center.

Customs and Border Protection spokesman Michael Friel said the department is reviewing the report but was not commenting yet.

The study looks at different indicators that the Border Patrol and its parent agencies use to determine estimates for everything from how many people enter the county illegally each year to how many immigrants stay past their allotted time. For example, the Department of Homeland Security relies on data from 1996 to calculate the percentage of immigrants who overstay visas. Collecting more data could also better determine how many people are in the country illegally and recidivism rates for deportees.

In general, the department doesn't compile or make public enough data, the report found.

"If you require a regular set of measures, the chances are greater that somebody's gonna go, 'Hey what's going on there?' Whether it's internal or from the outside," Cardinal Brown said.

Cardinal Brown said the government must dive deeper into understanding what drives immigrants to come here. Customs and Border Protection, for example, collects monthly data on the number of immigrants caught crossing the border, their nationality, gender and age. But that data isn't always made public, nor is it examined in a way that could help predict trends before they happen, the study says.

Case in point: the tens of thousands of unaccompanied immigrant children who poured into the U.S. this summer. The numbers were so great that Border Patrol agents in Texas, where a vast majority of children came through, were ill-equipped and had to fly many of the children to a warehouse in Nogales, Arizona, where they were processed.