If we can’t keep drug smugglers and illegal immigrants from walking across the southwestern border, how can we expect to keep out terrorists?
Throughout the 1990s, the federal government spent billions of dollars to hire more Border Patrol agents and deploy more sophisticated technology-remote sensors and cameras, for example-to the southwestern border of the United States.
In some ways, those investments have paid off-federal data show that illegal border-crossings are down, and drug traffickers are being driven to take ever-greater risks. But the fact remains that thousands of people enter the United States illegally every day, and the drug trade continues to overwhelm federal agents.
In the wake of Sept. 11, that raises troubling questions: If the feds can't keep drug smugglers and illegal immigrants from walking across the border, how can we expect them to keep out terrorists? Aren't terrorists at least as committed as narcotics traffickers?
For Government Executive's July 2002 special issue on homeland security, Katherine McIntire Peters visited the border to try to answer those questions. Click here to read her report.
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