Mr. Cohen's recent letter, "Contradictions and Confusion about the Proposed Border Wall," provides an opportunity for discussion on the topic of U.S. Border security.
Mr. Cohen contends that most of those in the U.S. illegally came here legally and have overstayed their visas. He is correct; however one needs to dig into the details to get the overall picture.
The FY 2017 Department of Homeland Security report dated August 2018 (latest annual data available), explains that of the 52,656,022 people in the non-immigrant classes of admission (i.e. temporary workers and their families, students, exchange visitors, and temporary visitors for pleasure or business), 606,926 of them, about 1.15 percent, are suspected of in-country overstays. These visitors sought legal entry into the U.S. and were screened prior to entry for health, criminal records, ability to support themselves, etc. They came from every corner of the world.
The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol reports that in FY 2018, 521,090 apprehensions of illegal immigrants were made at our Southern Border. In the first two months of FY 2019 (October and November 2018), 102,857 similar apprehensions were made. The trend is worsening. The number of monthly apprehensions in the first two months of FY 2019 is more than 18 percent greater than the monthly average in FY 2018. According to the PEW Research Center, during the years 2014-2017, there were more apprehensions of non-Mexicans than of Mexicans.
An estimated 7,000 Central American people in the recent migration have demanded entry and/or attempted illegal entry into our country without being screened for health, criminal records, ability to support themselves, etc. A large portion of the people in this migration are held in Tijuana, Mexico. Mexican authorities are medically treating approximately a third of the migrants. The vast majority of those being treated have respiratory infections (influenza, colds, bronchitis, pneumonia, etc.). Additionally, there also have been three confirmed cases of tuberculosis, four confirmed cases of HIV/AIDS, and four confirmed cases of chickenpox in people who presented symptoms of these serious communicable diseases. No mass screening for these diseases has been conducted.
Additionally, 123 people with either criminal records or MS-13 gang affiliations have been apprehended at our Southern border within the past six months. The recent migration from Central America has already had one documented Honduran convicted killer and one confirmed Honduran MS-13 gang member, both apprehended 1 mile east of the San Ysidro Port of Entry while attempting to illegally enter the United States.
Mr. Cohen made some valid points about the need for varying methods of stopping illegal crossings at our Southern border. A physical barrier is not suitable for the entire length of the border due to mountainous terrain or water obstacles. In those areas, various technologies can be used to alert officials of potential threats and allow their deployment to intercept those attempting to cross illegally.
Stopping illegal crossings is only one part of the problem.
Our Congress and past presidents from both parties have talked about the need for comprehensive immigration reform for decades without any meaningful progress. Controlling the Southern border and establishing laws for legal residency, not citizenship, for those already here who are without criminal records are the first steps.