The Border Patrol will increase its use of unmanned predator drones. (Eric Gay/AP)Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher said at a House Homeland Security Subcommittee hearing Tuesday that the country's 21,000 Border Patrol agents will refocus on information and intelligence gathering in the agency's new four-year strategy. The agency will also try to develop a better measurement for whether it is successfully keeping the border safe. Right now, the Border Patrol relies on how many people it has caught trying to cross the border as its main measure of success, but Fisher conceded that this "apprehension" figure doesn't show how many people are crossing undetected.
Fisher said the agents will more proactively communicate with people who live on the border, teaching them how to spot suspicious activity and potential drug runners. The Border Patrol will also increase the use of unmanned aircraft and helicopter flights to help it spot illegal activity.
Apprehensions have fallen sharply on the southern border since the economic downturn, and the number of Border Patrol agents has doubled since 2004, the last time the group released a strategy. Fisher told The Associated Press that under the new plan agents will more frequently punish people who try to cross the border illegally. Very few people, such as children and those who are ill, will simply be fingerprinted and turned back around as they were before, now that the increased manpower and decreased crossings give agents the resources to mete out stiffer consequences. Instead, more of those crossing will be jailed.
Marc Rosenblum, an immigration specialist with the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, testified that the Border Patrol's focus on blanketing highly trafficked illegal crossing areas may have left the official ports of entry vulnerable. Potential terrorists and drug runners could exploit the lower staffing and resources at these ports, he said.
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