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Controlling the flow of illegal entrants from Mexico took on heightened importance as a national security concern because of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. The terrorists had valid visas, but security experts reasoned that as long as the nation’s borders were easily bypassed which made the American public susceptible to future attacks. This resulted in the enactment in 2006 of the Secure Fence Act which made it compulsory for the expansion of border fencing by 700 miles with a concentration on Arizona’s and California’s border with Mexico. Reform also provided the impetus for additional efforts to deter illegal immigration with recommendations in the mid-1990s which resulted in legislation enacted in 1996 that established an electronic method to allow employers to verify the Social Security numbers of new employees.

This need for increased border security also led to a substantial increase in Border Patrol staffing which became was 21,394 officers on the border with Mexico. Other efforts to disrupt illegal entry from Mexico have included returning apprehended Mexicans to border crossing points far from where they were apprehended to disrupt their access to the smugglers who would help them reenter illegally again, and return by air to the interior of Mexico for the same reason. An initiative in the Arizona sector called Operation Streamline has introduced formal deportation proceedings against the Mexican illegal entrants so that if they return illegally they will be guilty of a felony and face imprisonment.

Because of the increased detection and apprehension capability of the Border Patrol has lowered people’s   reliance on smugglers who guide illegal border crossings into the country. Smuggling of Aliens has become so profitable that it has come to compete with drug smuggling across the border and to some extent the two illicit activities have combined.  The recent reduction in detentions has happened because of increased border control capabilities as well as the recession and high unemployment that has reduced job opportunities for illegal aliens. The proponents of an amnesty for the existing illegal alien population attempt to convince lawmakers that there is now sufficient border control overcome concerns that their proposal will lead to a further influx of illegal aliens as did the general amnesty for illegal aliens in 1986.

Although border control operations have increased, the border still remains entirely vulnerable in some areas where the terrain provides a natural barrier and in other remote areas. In other areas, such as tribal reservations and national wilderness areas, border control operations are restricted. At the end of Fiscal Year 2010, the Department of Homeland Security reported it had operational control over only 13 percent of the border, or 1,107 of the 8,607 miles across U.S. northern, southwest, and coastal borders.1 For the U.S. Mexican border, 44 percent of the 2000-miles were under operational control.

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