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May 12

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President Obama Should Tone Down the Rhetoric

President Obama is fond of claiming that he is a bipartisan type of guy.  It is the “other guys” who cause trouble in Washington politics.  But this week, the President’s comments were not just partisan, they were simply false.  The problem involves much more than a disagreement over policy.  The larger problem involves comments that bear no semblance to reality. 

On May 10, 2011, the published “Remarks by the President on Comprehensive Immigration Reform in El Paso, Texas” made at Chamizal National Memorial in El Paso, Texas, generally commented on the importance of allowing increased immigration into the United States.  The President’s speech regarding the state of the existing border patrol included:

So, here’s the point.  I want everybody to listen carefully to this.  We have gone above and beyond what was requested by the very Republicans who said they supported broader reform as long as we got serious about enforcement.  All the stuff they asked for, we’ve done.  But even though we’ve answered these concerns, I’ve got to say I suspect there are still going to be some who are trying to move the goal posts on us one more time.

You know, they said we needed to triple the Border Patrol.  Or now they’re going to say we need to quadruple the Border Patrol.  Or they’ll want a higher fence.  Maybe they’ll need a moat.   Maybe they want alligators in the moat.  They’ll never be satisfied.  And I understand that.  That’s politics.”

 Above and beyond?  … Answered all concerns?  … Moat?  … Alligators?  Those words will not do much to improve bipartisanship.

I am NOT commenting on our immigration policy here.  The real issue from my perspective involves whether this claimed accomplishment has any possibility of being accurate.   

In this regard, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a February 15, 2011 report entitled “Border Security: Preliminary Observations on Border Control Measures for the Southwest Border”.  This report makes it quite clear that actual border control bears no relationship to what the President contends. 

The GAO report states the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) achieved what is referred to as “operational control” over only 44 percent of the border.  15% of the 44% (around 7%) was classified as “controlled”, meaning that illegal activity can be regularly stopped.  The remaining 85% of the 44% “operational control” (around 37%) was “managed”.  “Managed” means that resources are in place to react IF a complaint occurs of illegal activity, but that the “managed” action is reactive after illegal activity has already occurred and a complaint is filed.   The rest of the 56% of the U.S. border has less surveillance and/or reaction – in some cases, nothing. 

The GAO report states:

Border Patrol reported achieving various levels of operational control for 873 of the nearly 2000 southwest border miles at the end of fiscal year 2010 … Yuma sector officials reported achieving operational control for all of its 126 border miles; however, the other eight southwest border sectors reported achieving operational control of 11 to 86 percent of their border miles.

Border patrol reported that its levels of operational control for most border miles reflected its ability to respond to illegal activity after entry into the United States, and not at the immediate border. … GAO’s preliminary analysis of the 873 border miles under operational control in 2010 showed that about 129 miles (15 percent) were classified as ‘controlled’, and the remaining 85 percent were classified as ‘managed’.  Border Patrol stated that operational control does not require its agents to be able to detect and apprehend all illegal entries.  

DHS reports that the southwest border continues to be vulnerable to cross-border illegal activity, including the smuggling of humans and illegal narcotics. “

Instead of ridiculing others about moats and alligators, perhaps the President should understand what the DHS says about its activities.

About the author

David Nolte

I am a founding principal of Fulcrum Inquiry, an accounting and economic consulting firm that performs damage analysis for commercial litigation, forensic accountings, financial investigations, and business valuations. I am a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and an Accredited Senior Appraiser (ASA), as well as having other professional credentials. I regularly serve as an expert witness involving damages measurement. My litigation-oriented resume is on Fulcrum's website.

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