Drone surveillance reveals: Border Patrol capturing less than 50% of illegals in parts of southern Arizona

All tried and true border hawks should be concerned. Right, Maverick?

The drones aren’t in wide enough use yet to know what the numbers look like in other spots along the border but that situation may soon be remedied. And Border Patrol isn’t thrilled at the prospect. The official data on border security is a bit different from what the drones are seeing:

According to internal reports, Border Patrol agents used the airborne radar to help find and detain 1,874 people in the Sonora Desert between Oct. 1 and Jan. 17. But the radar system spotted an additional 1,962 people in the same area who evaded arrest and disappeared into the United States.

In contrast, the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, estimated in January that the Border Patrol had caught 64% of those who illegally crossed into the Tucson sector in 2011…

Michael Friel, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said the Vader [yes, the drone is called “Vader” — AP] remained in a “preliminary testing phase.” He also said the method used in the agency’s internal reports to compare apprehensions to arrests was flawed because it didn’t include people who were detained after the airborne radar had left the area.

Actually, none of that proves that the feds’ 2011 numbers are inaccurate. It might simply mean that border security is … getting worse. Or maybe it proves that there are deeper flaws in the reporting system. For instance, compare the numbers above on people detained in the Sonoran Desert with this detail from the Center for Investigative Reporting’s broader report on the Vader data:

Between October and December, records show, the remotely operated aircraft detected 7,333 border crossers during its Arizona missions. Border Patrol agents, however, reported 410 apprehensions during that time, according to an internal agency report. The sensor was credited with providing surveillance that led to 52 arrests and 15,135 pounds of seized marijuana…

Some border experts speculate that more immigrants, particularly from Central America, are crossing in recent months because of excitement about an expected immigration law overhaul, federal budget cuts and the recent release of detained immigrants by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“The border is more secure than ever? Well, that’s a pretty low bar,” said Michael Nicley, who retired in 2007 as the Border Patrol’s sector chief in Tucson, Ariz. “Border Patrol agents would be the first to stick out their chests and say the border is under control. That’s not what they’re saying. Agents I talk to down here say we’re getting hammered.”

I don’t know how to reconcile the 410 apprehensions in the first paragraph with the 1800+ figure in the second unless there was a big surge of some sort in January. Did Border Patrol suddenly become more effective at the start of this year? Or, maybe, was there a surge in illegals crossing the border in January upon hearing of the immigration reform efforts in Congress (gotta make it into the U.S. before the cutoff date for amnesty) such that the BP suddenly had a huge new supply from which to apprehend people? Re-read the last paragraph in the excerpt for a possible clue.

Incidentally, Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee released a statement today insisting that the Gang of Eight bill could cost the U.S. trillions in welfare once amnestied illegals become eligible for green cards. I’ll leave you with this response from Rubio spokesman Alex Conant:

“Since we don’t yet have a legislative proposal, it’s not possible to come up with anything resembling an accurate calculation about the potential fiscal impact of bipartisan immigration reform. Obviously we share concerns about the potential fiscal impact of changes to our immigration system, which is why we will ask for an in-depth CBO analysis to inform debate around the bipartisan proposal. Senator Rubio has been clear that he will only support legislation that prohibits undocumented immigrants from receiving any Federal benefits, and in our negotiations, the Democrats have gone along with that demand – even agreeing to a partial repeal of Obamacare to bar undocumented immigrants benefits. In the long-term, there’s no question that modernizing our broken legal immigration will be very good for our nation’s economy.”

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