A precipitous buildup along the Mexican border has made it tougher than ever to get into the United States, but as lawmakers in Washington begin to tackle immigration reform, the Tampa Bay Times reports the debate hinges on a familiar, charged question: Is the border secure enough? Republicans insist comprehensive reform cannot start until the border is fully secure and call for the personnel, infrastructure and technology to “prevent, detect and apprehend every unauthorized entrant.” President Barack Obama says the border has never been safer.
The number of patrol agents has doubled since 2004, yet arrests have fallen to their lowest level in decades. Nearly 357,000 people were caught trying to cross the Mexico-U.S. border in 2012, down from more than 1.6 million in 2000. The numbers may justify the expense — and encourage more investments. Border enforcement topped $11.7 billion last year, up from $6.3 billion in 2005. Along the border, as in Washington, there is little agreement over what security looks like, how effective it has been, if more is needed and if so, at what cost to the federal budget or to generations-old bonds between communities now on opposite sides of a war over people and drugs.