Illegal Immigration:

Status of Southwest Border Strategy Implementation

GGD-99-44: Published: May 19, 1999. Publicly Released: May 19, 1999.

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Norman J. Rabkin
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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO provided information on the Attorney General's strategy for reducing and deterring illegal entry along the southwest border, focusing on: (1) the Immigration and Naturalization Service's (INS) progress in implementing the southwest border strategy during fiscal year (FY) 1998; (2) interim results of the strategy; and (3) actions taken on GAO's recommendation that the Attorney General develop and implement a plan for formal, cost-effective, comprehensive, and systematic evaluation of the strategy.

GAO noted that: (1) INS is continuing to implement its southwest border strategy; (2) although some of the expected interim results continue to occur, available data do not yet answer the fundamental question of how effective the strategy has been in preventing illegal entry; (3) in FY 1998, INS' Border Patrol transitioned into the second phase of its four-phased approach, which called for increasing Border Patrol agents and resources to sectors in Arizona and South Texas; (4) INS allocated 740 of 1,000 new agent positions authorized in FY 1998 to sectors in these locations; (5) INS also added 18 miles of fencing in California and Arizona, increased both the proportion and total amount of time Border Patrol agents at the southwest border spent collectively on border enforcement, and deployed additional technologies such as remote video surveillance cameras; (6) INS was testing a resource and effectiveness model to help it determine the right mix of staffing, equipment, and technology for all of its Border Patrol sectors; (7) to complement the Border Patrol's efforts between ports of entry, INS Inspections added 179 inspectors to southwest land-border ports of entry in FY 1998 and undertook training and enforcement efforts in conjunction with other agencies located at these ports; (8) INS also began testing an inspections program designed to measure how well it conducted inspections of travellers; (9) although evaluative data on the overall impact of the strategy continue to be limited, available data suggested that several anticipated interim effects of the strategy have occurred; (10) the southwest border ports of entry inspectors apprehended an increased number of persons attempting fraudulent entry and there were reports of higher fees being charged by smugglers, which INS said indicated an increased difficulty in illegal border crossing; (11) available information on the interim results of the strategy does not provide answers to the most fundamental questions surrounding the INS' enforcement efforts along the southwest border; (12) pursuant to GAO's 1997 report recommendation to conduct a comprehensive evaluation, INS contracted with private research firms in September 1998 for evaluative studies; (13) as of April 1999, according to INS, one contractor was working on an evaluation design and analysis plan; (14) INS could provide GAO with no other information on the contractor's progress; and (15) consequently, GAO does not know to what extent the contractor's evaluation plan will provide the information needed to determine the extent to which the Attorney General's strategy has been effective.

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