DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano credits decrease in border arrests to National Guard troops not even deployed at the time in question

Posted on October 19, 2010

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Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano has been busy touring the southern border touting a 17% drop in border patrol arrests.   She claims that arrests are down partly because of the increase in funding and staffing of border patrol agents as well as the 1,200 National Guard troops President Obama sent to be extra sets of “eyes and ears” for the border patrol.

Napolitano said the weak economy helps explain why fewer people are getting caught crossing the border illegally, and she also credited enforcement against employers. But she said a big reason is enforcement under President Barack Obama – including bringing the Border Patrol to an all-time high of 20,500 agents and dispatching 1,200 National Guard troops. (emphasis mine)

“The manpower, the technology, the infrastructure all has enabled us to be able to really slow that flow of illegal immigrant traffic,” she said at a news conference at the San Ysidro border crossing with Tijuana, Mexico. 

The problem with her statement?  The decrease in arrests by the border patrol are for the fiscal year 2010, ending on September 30, 2010.  The National Guard troops Secretary Napolitano is speaking of didn’t even start to arrive at the Arizona border (where border crossings are highest) until the last days of August, and didn’t reach their full numbers until the end of September when the fiscal year ended.     Even though Secretary Napolitano is claiming that the guards sent to the border are a big reason for arrests being down, they weren’t even deployed to the border for 11 of the 12 months the statistic covers. In California and New Mexico, the guards arrived on  or around August 1, but still were not deployed 10 of the 12 months in question.

As far as the increase in border patrol agents is concerned, President Obama has had little to do with that as well (emphasis mine):

Peter Nunez, a former U.S. attorney in San Diego who advocates a more restrictive immigration policy, noted that border enforcement has been building for 15 years. In the mid-1990s, President Bill Clinton launched a crackdown in San Diego and El Paso, Texas, that pushed migrants to remote mountains and deserts and made Arizona the busiest corridor for illegal crossings.

President George W. Bush doubled the size of the Border Patrol to 20,000 agents and, at one point, had 6,000 National Guard troops assigned to the border.

“It’s been a long process over several administrations,” said Nunez, who teaches immigration policy at University of San Diego. “They are reaping the rewards.”

 Finally, the real reason border arrests are down is the one Secretary Napolitano gives the least credit: the piss-poor economy. But even if she doesn’t admit this truth, an illegal immigrant advocate tells it like it is:

Enrique Morones, an activist who supports looser immigration policies, said the economy is the main reason for the five-year decline in arrests.

“If there are fewer jobs available, fewer people come,” said Morones, president of Border Angels, which provides water to migrants crossing the border.

Morones said enforcement has discouraged people from crossing the border illegally to a much lesser extent. (emphasis mine)

 While the President and Secretary Napolitano are trying to take all the credit for the decrease in border patrol arrests, in reality, they’ve had a minimal impact at most.