United States Border Security Post 9/11
U.S. border security in the post 9/11 era requires careful attention to all potential threats with particular focus on mitigating circumstances that lead to reductions in citizen safety and security. These efforts must be balanced with protection of U.S. citizens’ rights to freedom of movement and commerce. Additionally, security activities must protect borders while minimizing interference with international trade. Primary concerns at the land borders include tracking movements of people into and out of the U.S. (including potential terrorists) at the traditional borders, curtailing illegal immigration and stopping drug trafficking. ...view middle of the document...
Expanded security measures have therefore necessarily focused on balancing the need to control who enters and exits the country with the protection of U.S. citizen freedom of movement. In the post 9/11 period, focus was also spent on unifying domestic security under the single Department of Homeland Security (DHS). All border security agencies are now housed under DHS. In the following pages, particular measures and concerns in the three categories of land, sea, and sky are presented and analyzed.
Land border security for the U.S. is comprised of the two long stretches of land separating the U.S. from Canada along the north and the U.S. from Mexico along the south. Primary concerns along the southern border include both drug trafficking and immigration while the northern border is a concern because of the potential for terrorists to cross into the U.S. from Canada. Despite these differences, the two borders share one trait that makes land security particularly challenging. Both are thousands of miles long. Specifically, the U.S.-Mexico border is 1,933 miles and the U.S.-Canada border is 3,987 miles with 1,538 miles between Alaska and Canada and 2,449 separating the continental U.S. from Canada (Beaver, 2006). The massive size of these borders makes security along their perimeters daunting to say the least.
The U.S.-Mexico border is particularly problematic because of Mexico’s extensive drug trafficking and the significant percentage of illegal immigrants that originate from or through Mexico. Drug traffickers and illegal immigrant smugglers, called ‘coyotes,’ do not always use traditional roadways but often strike out across the deserts that separate Mexico from the states of Texas and Arizona. When the U.S. sought solutions to protecting these borders, one of the most effective models found was that of Israeli security. Israel is one of the most vulnerable nations on earth with enemies surrounding it on every side. Nevertheless, Israelis remain relatively secure despite these circumstances because of the policies, procedures, and infrastructures used by the Israeli military. Cohen and Levitt (2009) note that the Israeli border patrols along the Gaza Strip are heralded as some of the most effective in the world because they reduce arms smuggling from 100 tons per year to 1 ton per year, but the Gaza Strip is 6 miles in length. Comparing this to the nearly 2,000 miles that separate the U.S. and Mexico, it becomes clear that emulating such efforts along the U.S. borders would be grossly ineffective or impractical because of the expense and logistical impossibility of such a coordinated effort (White, 2003).
One solution proposed by the Bush Administration was to build a fence between the U.S. and Mexico. This bill was signed into law as the Secure Fence Act in 2006. While this effort might seem to have reduced some illegal immigration, it failed to account for the fact that most drug smuggling that occurs over land...