700 miles of fencing, infrared cameras, remote sensors, electronic listening posts, and surveillance infrastructure can’t beat a faltering United States economy when it comes to apprehending unauthorized migrants. Apparently, border arrests are at an all-time low since the 1970s.
Surely, the ingenious United States Border Patrol agents in New Mexico have perfecting some ancient techniques to catch smugglers and unauthorized immigrants stepping onto U.S. territory. After millions poured into ‘smart border’ technology, agents have figured that learning from the indigenous people of this country is best.
POTTER: At sunrise, though, agents in New Mexico revert to an ancient low-tech skill and discover a footprint from someone the sophisticated cameras missed the night before.
Mr. JAMES ACOSTA (US Border Patrol Supervisor): Agents do it every day. Every single day agents are finding people, finding narcotics, finding illegal crossers off one footprint.
POTTER: Following footprints and other clues is known as sign cutting, perfected long ago by Native Americans.
Mr. ACOSTA: We keep our eyes to the ground, we try to pick up any disturbance, whether it’s brush, whether it’s a footprint in the ground, a turned over rock. Just anything.
(Transcript, NBC Nightly News, Nov 28, Available on Lexis/Nexis)
In an age when immigrants can use GPS to cross the border, this policy must comfort those interesting in “securing the border.” Alas, a 23% drop in border arrests this year is attributed to the recession as well as a rebounding Mexican economy. Migrant workers go from low employment availability areas to places where their job prospects are higher. And there’s nothing like a bad economy to compel migrants to leave but with containment policies such as the dreaded 10-year ban, most undocumented immigrants are staying put.
Is this good enough for those who have timelessly proclaimed that the “borders must be secured” before any sweeping changes to immigration system? Or is this constant call for secure borders simply a time-wasting ploy to prevent any real progress towards immigration reform?
(Photo Courtesy: WestWindWorld)