Increased Border Security Is ‘Window Dressing,’ Says Border Patrol Union

BY Elizabeth Summers  April 15, 2013 at 2:30 PM EDT

Hari Sreenivasan talks with Shawn Moran, vice president of the National Border Patrol Council, about the changing debate over immigration.

The last time the nation heard the terms “amnesty” and “pathway to citizenship” batted around with such frequency was seven years ago, in the year leading up to the ultimately doomed Immigration Reform Act of 2007. The bill was a compromise championed by then-President George W. Bush that called for stronger border security and workplace enforcement laws, and would have led to legal status for immigrants in the U.S. without documentation.

The arguments on both sides sounded a whole lot like they do today. At the time, the NewsHour ran a series of one-on-one discussions, called “Immigration Insights,” with individuals exploring the concept of reform through the lens of their own involvement with immigrants.

Today, with comprehensive reform once again reportedly around the corner, we decided to go back to some of the same individuals (along with some new faces) and ask what’s changed — and what hasn’t — seven years later. Does today’s political landscape feel like history repeating itself? Have their attitudes toward immigration changed?

“Secure the border first.” It’s a pledge heard often in Washington in the current debate over immigration reform, and the same could be said back in 2006. President Barack Obama claims that the border today is the safest its ever been, with 700 miles of barriers and 18,500 U.S. agents stationed along the Mexican border. But what does a secure border look like, hundreds of miles away from the nation’s capital, to the men and women who actually work to patrol it?

The National Border Patrol Council represents approximately 17,000 agents. In 2006, Ray Suarez talked to the group’s former president, T.J. Bonner (he has since stepped down), who admitted he was “disappointed by both the tone and the content” of the debate. You can watch that interview below. At the time, Bonner said both sides seemed to be “missing the central point, which is most people coming across that border are coming across for a reason: to get work in the United States.”

Hari Sreenivasan caught up with Shawn Moran, the current vice president of the Border Patrol Council, and asked him what has changed in the past seven years. Moran says that although he does see “more of a visibility” of border security today compared to 2006, he is still concerned about the perception that the border is more secure than it’s ever been. “It’s safer than it has been in the last two to three decades, but by no means is it secure,” he says.

No drone or fence has ever arrested a single criminal.
–Shawn Moran, National Border Patrol Council

And while Moran says there “have been buildups” in agents, infrastructure and technology, he says “a lot of it is window dressing,” adding that “no drone or fence has ever arrested a single criminal.”

The solution to the problem is simple, says Moran, and it hasn’t changed: “Our position has always been that if you cut off the magnet drawing people here — jobs — you make it difficult to find work and hire people illegally. Only then can agents on the border truly get a handle on the issue.”

In 2006, Ray Suarez spoke with T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council.

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