U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers failed to stop 1 in 10 illegal immigrants and serious drug and weapons violators from entering the U.S. through airports and official land border crossings last year, says a Government Accountability Office study reported by the Washington Post. While screeners turned back more than 200,000 foreigners, random audits indicate that they missed another 20,000 violators. GAO blamed failures by officers and supervisors along with inadequate training and staffing. A Customs and Border Protection study said the agency needs 1,600 to 4,000 more officers and agricultural specialists at the nation’s air, land, and sea ports–a boost of up to 25 percent.
The federal government has started a costly buildup to guard remote stretches of the U.S.-Mexico border, doubling Border Patrol ranks to 18,000 agents between 2000 and 2008, planning to add 570 miles of fencing and vehicle barriers and 200 miles of sensors, and boosting spending on border security to $9 billion last year. Experts say up to half of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants entered the U..S. not by sneaking across the border but by evading detection at the 326 legal ports of entry or by overstaying visas.