Fact check: How secure is the U.S.-Mexico border?




Posted on October 10, 2010 at 9:39 PM

Updated Monday, Oct 11 at 8:02 PM

EL PASO — The border is a hot button issue on the campaign trail — again.

There's been a lot of finger-pointing about illegal immigration and lack of security. But what's really happening along the Texas-Mexico frontier?

Let's start with the assertion that illegal immigration is out of control.

"I think so. I think so, oh yes," said voter Dee Mace. "Something should be done about that."

Well, a lot has been done about that. There's a fence, new technology, aerial surveillance drones, and even troops along the border.

"I welcome the military to come in and blockade the border," said voter Ray Segovia.

It's not a blockade, but the National Guard is helping with surveillance. "I think America should feel safer whenever we've got more eyes on the border," said James Acosta of the U.S. Border Patrol.

There are a lot of new hires. In recent years, the Border Patrol has doubled in size to more than 20,000 agents, and there are plans to recruit more.

A downturn in the economy also helped reduce illegal immigration, which has been steadily falling.

Deportations have reached a record high for the second year in a row, with a new focus on removing criminals.

The border is a much more dangerous place these days on the Mexican side, where drug violence has escalated to a record high.

But U.S. cities on the border are among the safest in the nation, and report consistently low violent crime rates.

"I have friends who call me; 'Oh, it must be a war zone!'" said El Paso resident Lisa Whitaker. "No it's not. Come to Christmas. It's OK!"

By Christmas, the political campaign season will be just a memory, but the border will remain a hot button issue in Texas.

E-mail akocherga@belo.com