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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reports that the nearly 2,000-mile U.S. border with Mexico is vulnerable to cross-border illegal activity. The Office of Border Patrol (Border Patrol), within DHS's U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), is responsible for securing the border between U.S. ports of entry and has divided responsibility for southwest border miles among nine Border Patrol sectors. CBP reported spending about $3 billion on Border Patrol's southwest border efforts in fiscal year 2010, apprehending over 445,000 illegal entries. This testimony provides preliminary observations on (1) the extent to which DHS reported progress in achieving operational control--Border Patrol was able to detect, respond, and interdict cross-border illegal activity--of the southwest border; (2) the extent to which operational control reflects Border Patrol's ability to respond to illegal activity at the border or after entry into the United States; and (3) how DHS reports the transition to new border security measures will change oversight and resource requirements for securing the southwest border. This testimony is based on GAO's ongoing work for the House Committee on Homeland Security. GAO analyzed DHS border security documents and data supporting border security measures reported by DHS for fiscal years 2005 through 2010, and interviewed DHS officials. DHS generally agreed with the information in this statement and provided clarifying language, which we incorporated.

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