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Border Security: Barriers Along the U.S. International Border

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Congressional rept.

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Congress has been considering expanding the barriers currently deployed along the U.S. international land border. Currently, the United States Border Patrol USBP deploys fencing, which aims to impede the illegal entry of individuals, and vehicle barriers, which aim to impede the illegal entry of vehicles but not individuals along the border. The USBP first began erecting barriers in 1990 to deter illegal entries and drug smuggling in its San Diego sector. The ensuing 14 mile-long San Diego primary fence formed part of the USBPs Prevention Through Deterrence strategy, which called for reducing unauthorized migration by placing agents and resources directly on the border along population centers in order to deter would-be migrants from entering the country. In 1996, Congress passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act which, among other things, explicitly gave the Attorney General now the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security broad authority to construct barriers along the border and authorized the construction of a secondary layer of fencing to buttress the completed 14 mile primary fence. The Secure Fence Act of 2006 directs DHS to construct 850 miles of additional border fencing. While the San Diego fence, combined with an increase in agents and other resources in the USBPs San Diego sector, has proven effective in reducing the number of apprehensions made in that sector, there is considerable evidence that the flow of illegal immigration has adapted to this enforcement posture and has shifted to the more remote areas of the Arizona desert. A number of policy issues concerning border barriers generally and fencing specifically may be of interest to Congress, including, but not limited, to their effectiveness, costs versus benefits, location, design, environmental impact, potential diplomatic ramifications, and the costs of acquiring the land needed for construction.

Subject Categories:

  • Government and Political Science
  • Civil Engineering
  • Structural Engineering and Building Technology
  • Geography

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