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Homeland Security

03 November 2005

Chertoff Offers Multiyear Plan To Secure U.S. Borders

Goal is to choke off illegal crossings on land, sea borders

By Merle D. Kellerhals, Jr.
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- The United States has set a goal to catch and remove every person who crosses the nation's 7,000 miles of shared borders illegally, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff says.

"Simply stated, our goal is to gain control of our borders," Chertoff said in a speech in Houston November 2.

"I define control to mean that we will have an extremely high probability of detecting, responding to and interdicting illegal crossings of our borders."

Chertoff introduced the Secure Border Initiative, which represents a transformational approach to securing U.S. borders from terrorism, but also to reducing illegal migration.

"Gaining control of our borders requires focusing on all aspects of the problem -- deterrence, detection, apprehension, detention and removal," Chertoff said in remarks to the Houston Forum, a nonprofit educational group.

Coupled with the border initiative, he said, is the need for Congress to change current immigration laws.  That would include the creation of a temporary worker program that would allow legal, regulated workers into the United States to work while still preserving national security.

The Bush administration long has supported the temporary worker program’s concept as an effective deterrent to illegal aliens entering the country solely to find high-paying jobs. (See related article.)

The initiative is designed to enable Homeland Security to achieve operational control of both the northern border with Canada and the southern border with Mexico within five years and to secure the nation’s ports of entry, he said. 

Key elements of the initiative include:

• More federal agents to patrol the borders, secure the ports of entry for people and cargo and to enforce immigration laws;

• Expanded and more efficient detection and removal capabilities to eliminate the practice of "catch and release" currently used;

• A comprehensive and systemic upgrading of border-security technology that would include air patrols, expanded use of unmanned aerial vehicles similar to those currently used by the U.S. armed forces and new-generation detection technology;

• Increased investment in infrastructure improvements at the border to provide additional barriers to block illegal border crossings; and

• Greatly increased interior enforcement of U.S. immigration laws, including more robust worksite enforcement to capture illegal aliens.

Chertoff said that since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, the federal government has increased border security spending by $2.8 billion, a 60 percent increase.  When President Bush on October 18 signed into law the Homeland Security budget, it included more than $7 billion for Customs and Border Protection, he added.

The fiscal year 2006 budget for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement increased 9 percent over 2005 levels to $3.9 billion, he said.

"Under our Secure Border Initiative, we will field the most effective mix of current and next-generation technology and infrastructure with a corresponding mix of appropriately trained personnel," he said.

"Our goal is to ultimately have the capacity to integrate multiple ‘state of the art’ systems and sensor arrays into one interoperable and comprehensive detection system."

Chertoff, conceding that today's problem of illegal migration has been years in the making and the solution will not happen rapidly, said the United States "must act thoughtfully and systematically -- but also quickly."

Cooperation between the United States and Canada, and between the United States and Mexico, has been substantially improved through the Security and Prosperity Partnership unveiled earlier this year.  It has lead to success in stopping smugglers and those trafficking in humans, he said. (See related article.)

The full text of Chertoff's remarks and a fact sheet on the Secure Border Initiative are available on the Department of Homeland Security Web site.

For additional information on U.S. efforts to secure its southern border, see The U.S. and Mexico: Border/Migration Issues.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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