Have you wondered why the Border Patrol is so keen on placing a permanent checkpoint on I-19?
The answer is the GAO and OMB. The Office of Management and Budget 'Expect More' evaluations (note that last year's evaluation which specifically referenced the Tucson Sector's lack of a permanent checkpoint has been flushed down the memory hole before I thought to archive it) and the General Accountability Office's Congressional reports (pdf) both have identified the lack of permanent interior checkpoints as a major inefficiency in the Border Patrol's efforts to interdict contraband and illegal immigrants over a period of several years. In order to improve efficacy, and keep the OMB and GAO off their back, the Border Patrol, and Homeland Security, had made pushing back the Kolbe Doctrine a major priority.
Jim Kolbe, through his position on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, had been able to keep the Border Patrol from allocating any money to permanent checkpoints in the Tucson sector. The result was measurably lower performance in interdictions in comparison to border sectors with permanent interior checkpoints. The Border Patrol has been chomping at the bit to institute permanent checkpoints in the Tucson sector since Kolbe first restricted them in 2002, and it got its opening when he retired in 2006.
With Kolbe's retirement, it wouldn't have mattered whether a Republican or a Democrat won with respect to permanent checkpoints. In fact, arguably, if the Republican won, his ideological commitment to controlling illegal immigration probably would have pushed him into building permanent checkpoints much sooner, and with much less impact mitigation and community input than Gabby Giffords has managed to extract from Homeland Security and the Border Patrol. In any case, the Border Patrol was hell-bent on getting its permanent checkpoints, and no freshman legislator was going to stop them.
I certainly find plenty fault with our Congresswoman when I think she deserves it, but those who are tempted to blame Gabby for the coming of the permanent checkpoint to their communities are barking up the wrong branch of the government. Gabby can't hold back a flood with a teaspoon, but she has done a hell of a decent job to ensure that people in the affected communities had a say in the process.
Extracts from the report on the flip...
Here are some especially illuminating quotes from the 2005 GAO report:
"Prior to the implementation of INS’s southwest border strategy in 1993, the Tucson sector had a smaller volume of illegal alien traffic relative to the San Diego and El Paso sectors, as indirectly measured by apprehensions. In fiscal year 1993, the Tucson sector had less than one-fifth as many apprehensions as the San Diego sector, and less than one-third those in the El Paso sector.
As the strategy unfolded, the San Diego and El Paso sectors became more difficult for illegal aliens to cross, while the volume of illegal traffic in the Tucson sector increased nearly sevenfold over the period of fiscal years 1993-2000, as measured indirectly by sectorwide apprehensions. This increase in illegal activity, as well as a general increase in legitimate vehicular traffic, led the Border Patrol to consider a more permanent presence for checkpoints in the Tucson sector, where it had previously operated only tactical checkpoints, to provide the range of facilities offered by permanent checkpoints."
The massive increase in illegal activity in the sector led the Border Patrol to want a permanent checkpoint where none was needed before. In 2002, Kolbe instituted a seven day limit on the duration of checkpoints, and in 2005 that limit was increased to 14 days; not even Kolbe was able to hold the line indefinitely. He might well have been forced to abandon his commitment to roving checkpoints eventually.
"Border Patrol officials told us that without the infrastructure typical of the Patrol’s permanent checkpoints in others sectors, the Tucson sector
cannot perform the full range of enforcement functions. For example, without access to national databases, suspects detained at the sector’s nonpermanent checkpoints cannot be readily identified and must be transported by an agent or agents to a Border Patrol station with database
access, in order to determine if the persons should be detained. Further, the nonpermanent Tucson checkpoints lack paved, adequately large, level, off-road shoulder areas to deploy vehicle lifts or VACIS trucks required to examine underneath and inside vehicles. According to the Border Patrol, because detention facilities at these checkpoints are small rooms in mobile trailers, with weak internal doors and locks, they can be
insufficient in size and security."
These are valid concerns that impact the efficacy and efficiency of agents in the Tucson sector. Take a look at some of the facilities they had to work with:
The increase in interdictions resulting from permanent checkpoints is clearly demonstrated for drugs, but are less apparent for undocumented aliens:
"The most readily available data on the benefits of interior checkpoints are the drug seizure and apprehension data recorded by the Border Patrol on a daily basis at its checkpoints and stations. In fiscal year 2004, for example, the Border Patrol reported that the southwest interior checkpoints, which were staffed by about 10 percent of Border Patrol agents in those sectors, were responsible for 96,000 illegal alien apprehensions, or 8 percent of all Border Patrol apprehensions, and for seizure of 418,102 pounds of marijuana and 10,853 pounds of cocaine in fiscal year 2004, or about 31 percent of the marijuana and about 74 percent of the cocaine seized nationally by the Border Patrol.
In addition to the benefits of seizing contraband, and mitigating the smuggling of humans, there were at least six incidents reported to us where individuals with suspected ties to terrorism were identified when transiting a Border Patrol interior checkpoint and appropriate actions were coordinated with the FBI."
The GAO took the Border Patrol's rather anecdotal account of the inefficiency of temporary checkpoints and applied some actual data:
"Although the Border Patrol told us that the legislative restrictions on funding for construction of checkpoints in the Tucson sector, combined with the requirement to relocate checkpoints on a 7- or 14-day schedule, had reduced their effectiveness, it did not have a data-based analysis to support these statements. It did have data, by sector, on apprehensions of illegal entrants at interior checkpoints and for line watch/line patrol, as well as for work hours charged at interior checkpoints and line watch/line patrol....
In applying the apprehension per agent work year measure, we compared the performance of the Tucson sector interior checkpoints over the period of fiscal years 2001-2004 with those of the interior checkpoints in the three other sectors we visited... Throughout this period as well, no funding had been permitted for construction of checkpoints in the Tucson sector. Our analysis of Border Patrol data suggest that, as measured in apprehensions per agent work year, the restrictions in the Tucson sector may have had a negative impact on the performance of its interior checkpoints, starting at about the time the sector implemented direction from congressional staff to relocate checkpoints every 7 days, in comparison with the three other sectors we visited, where no comparable decline in effectiveness occurred during the same time period."
Here's the comparison data:
[This figure] "shows that apprehensions per agent work year at the Tucson sector interior checkpoints fell 48 percent from fiscal year 2001 to fiscal year 2002, when the 7-day relocation procedures were put into effect, with about 4 months remaining in the fiscal year. This was followed by a 77 percent decrease from fiscal year 2002 to fiscal year 2003, when the 7-day relocation requirement was in effect for the entire fiscal year. The overall decrease from fiscal year 2001 to fiscal year 2003 was about 88 percent, in the Tucson sector. Apprehensions per agent work year rose from fiscal year 2003 to fiscal year 2004, but the 2004 level was 77 percent below the fiscal year 2001 level. In contrast to these performance measures for the Tucson sector interior checkpoints, apprehensions per agent work year for same period at the interior checkpoints in the three other southwest sectors (San Diego, California; Laredo, Texas; and McAllen, Texas) we visited—that were not subject to the funding restrictions or the relocation requirements—either stayed at about the same level over this period or increased somewhat.
During fiscal year 2001 to 2002, when Tucson apprehensions per agent work year fell 48 percent, apprehensions per agent work year fell less than 2 percent in the San Diego sector, decreased about 19 percent in the Laredo sector, and decreased about 12 percent in the McAllen sector. The Border Patrol attributed the drop in apprehensions in these and other sectors in this period to a general decrease in illegal border crossings after September 11 but attributed the greater decline in the Tucson sector to relocating the Tucson checkpoints on a regular 7-day basis, starting in June 2002. Border Patrol officials told us that they were not aware of any other changes or factors that would have caused the reduction in Tucson compared with other sectors other than the combination of the funding restrictions and the 7-day relocation requirement."
With conclusions like these, is it any wonder that Congress did away with the restrictions as soon as they were able? Without Kolbe keeping watch, it was inevitable that the confluence of interests within the Border Patrol, Homeland Security, and relevant Congressional committees and members to end Kolbe's failed experiment would sweep away any remaining restrictions on permanent interior checkpoints in the Tucson Sector.