Congressman Ron Barber released a comprehensive study of Border Patrol strategy to ensure the border is secure to Douglas residents on Jan. 28 at the Douglas Visitors Center.
The Tucson Sector consist of the following cities along the Arizona/Mexico border Ajo, Casa Grande, Douglas, Naco, Nogales, Sonoita, Tucson, and Willcox.
The newly appointed Homeland Security Committee member requested for the Government Accountability Office to evaluate the security strategy and resources needed by the Border Patrol.
The three main objectives in the GAO report on were:
· Data on border patrol apprehensions and seizures
· Border patrol scheduling of agents workdays and effectiveness rates
· Border patrol implementation steps for new strategic plan
GAO analyzed data from fiscal years 2006-2011 and examined the Border Patrols 2012-2016 strategic plan for border security.
Evaluators from the GAO also visited every Border Patrol station on the Southwestern border, interviewed Border Patrol personnel, spoke with ranchers in Rep. Barber’s district and across the Tucson Sector, toured the border, and took stock of resources and infrastructure.
Barber said we cannot access progress without this information from the people living in these communities.
GAO Director Rebecca Gambler GAO said that the number of apprehensions across the Southwestern border decreased by six percent from fiscal 2008 to fiscal 2011.
The Department of Homeland Security attributes this to an increase in border security efforts.
Gambler said that the decrease is due not only to an increased number of Border Patrol agents but also the addition of National Guard personnel in supporting roles.
While apprehensions decreased, drug seizures increased from 10,321 in fiscal 2006 to 18,898 in fiscal 2011. The Tucson Sector, accounts for about 38 percent of all drug seizures and 37 percent of all apprehensions across the entire Southwestern border.
Gary Thrasher, a rancher and resident of Douglas, agrees that border patrol is at its best. However, the study is about the level of safety for Douglas residents.
“No fence will work unless it’s patrolled one way or another,” said Thrasher.
The GAO found that southwest border sectors scheduled most agent workday to the performance of enforcement activities during fiscal years 2006 to 2011.
The activity of patrolling the border enforcement activities occurring with 25 mile of the border accounted for a greater proportion of enforcement activity workdays than any other activity. Further more data concluded that the Tucson sector scheduled a 71 percent of agents workdays to patrolling, higher than any other southwest border sectors in fiscal year 2011.
“The Border Patrol is in the process of implementing the new strategic plan, so at this point it’s too early to assess how implementation will go,” Gambler said.
As of Dec. 2012 the GAO has reported that the Border Patrol does not yet have performance goals and measures in place necessary to define border security and determine the resources necessary to achieve it.
Border Patrol officials said that they had planned to establish such goals and measures by fiscal year 2012, but these efforts have been delayed, and are contingent on developing and implementing key elements of its strategic plan.
"We are going to make sure that we do everything we can to look at the resources within our community,” Rep. Barber said. “So we can establish the best possible way to get a handle on this continuing problem that we have here in Southern Arizona."