NPR Story
12:17 pm
Mon February 11, 2013

McCain Addresses Secure Border Question

On Sunday, Arizona Senator John McCain shared more insight around the security objectives that he believes need to be passed before shifting the immigration conversation to citizenship.

McCain is one of the eight Senators who are laying the foundation on immigration reform. However, they have made it clear this conversation begins with security.

McCain reiterated this sentiment on Fox News Sunday.

Question: Will you insist in any immigration package on border enforcement first?

MCCAIN: Yes, I will… we do need to have a secure border. We can do it with surveillance capabilities and other capabilities. And I believe we can achieve that. But that's our commitment and I owe it to people who live in the southern part of my state where drug smugglers are coming across their property every single night.

But the question of security is far more complex.

Senior officials have already voiced opposing views on the current state of the border. In a two-day border tour, visiting San Diego and El Paso, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano stated she believes the border is “secure.”

Topping the list of "surveillance capabilities" that McCain mentioned, the U.S. Border Patrol is looking to expand the use drones.

Last year drones ran a cost of around $18 million. But they contributed to less than 3 percent of the total drugs seized and 0.04 percent of illegal crossers caught.

But this only makes up one part of the overall effectiveness of border agents and a secure border.

This is the equation they use:

Effectiveness = (apprehensions + turn backs) / (estimated got aways + apprehensions + turn backs)

But if you think solving this equation will lead to a bipartisan agreement of a secure border — think again.

When it comes to effectiveness there’s one consensus among U.S. Border Patrol: it will have to revise its performance measures to provide a more reliable answer to the question of a secure border.

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