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House Homeland Committee leader questions administration border security claims

Sonoran Desert

Reports of missed Border Patrol apprehensions in Arizona because of possible gaps in security prompted the leader of the House Homeland Security Committee to formally ask DHS to explain its recent claims of a secure border.

An April 4 report in the Los Angeles Times quoted an internal Border Patrol memo concerning the use of a new airborne radar system called Vader. The memo showed that although the agency identified and detained 1,874 undocumented aliens in Arizona’s Sonoran desert between Oct. 1, 2012 and Jan. 17, 2013, it also identified an additional 1,962 that went uncaught in the region in the same period.

DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano and other Obama administration officials have stated repeatedly in the last few months that the southwestern border is secure.

The latest reports, however, had some key members of congress pressing for more answers on border security.

House Homeland Security Committee chairman Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) and committee member Rep. Candice Miller (R-MI) wrote a letter to the Napolitano on April 5 asking for more information to support the agency’s claims.

"Recent reports indicate that the Department of Homeland Security is apprehending less than half of illegal border crossers in certain sectors and that aerial technology has revealed huge gaps in our border security efforts, McCaul and Miller wrote, quoting the Los Angeles Times story. “These revelations are in stark contrast to the administration's declaration that the border is more secure than ever due to greater resources having been deployed to the region, and that lower rates of apprehensions signify fewer individuals are crossing. Therefore, we are writing to request the data behind the Administration's assertion."

McCaul and Miller noted that “significant funding” for more Border Patrol agents has been made available and that 700 miles of fencing, as well as other technologies, have been deployed to stop illegal migrants from entering the country since DHS was created. The added, however, that DHS hasn’t been able to quantify how those resources have resulted in a more secure border. “However, we do not know if additional resources have produced better results.”

McCaul and Miller said that while “the administration touts its success, it has been unable to answer the fundamental question: How effective are we at keeping illegal immigrants, drug smugglers and potential terrorists our of our country given this enormous investment?”