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Fact Sheet: Southwest Border Overview


  • Today, the Border Patrol is better staffed than at any time in its 86-year history, having nearly doubled the number of agents from approximately 10,000 in 2004 to more than 20,500 in 2010.
  • Since 2004, the number of “boots on the ground” along the Southwest border has increased by 80% to nearly 17,500 in FY2010.
  • ICE has increased the number of federal agents deployed on the Southwest border--currently, ICE has a quarter of all its personnel in the Southwest border region – the most ever.
  • ICE has doubled the number of personnel assigned to Border Enforcement Security Task Forces - multi-agency teams which collaborate to identify, disrupt and dismantle criminal organizations which pose significant threats to border security.
  • ICE has quintupled deployments of Border Liaison Officers, who facilitate cooperation between U.S. and Mexican law enforcement authorities on investigations and enforcement operations.
  • ICE has increased the number of intelligence analysts along the Southwest border focused on cartel violence.
  • An additional 1,200 National Guard troops have been deployed along the Southwest border to assist law enforcement agencies in cracking down on transnational smuggling and cartel violence.

Technology, Aerial Assets and Fencing

  • Under the Southwest Border Initiative, DHS began screening 100% of southbound rail shipments for the first time ever.
  • Through the Pedestrian Biometric Program, CBP can biometrically verify the identity of aliens entering the United States through pedestrian lanes across the Southwest border.
  • DHS has deployed thousands of technology assets – including mobile surveillance units, thermal imaging systems, and large-and small-scale non-intrusive inspection equipment – along the Southwest Border and currently has three Unmanned Aircraft Systems operating along the southwest border.
    • For the first time, DHS unmanned aerial capabilities now cover the Southwest border all the way from California to Texas—providing critical aerial surveillance assistance to personnel on the ground.
  • DHS has completed 649 miles of fencing out of nearly 652 miles planned, including 299 miles of vehicle barriers and 350 miles of pedestrian fence, with the remaining 3 miles scheduled to be complete by the end of the calendar year.

Apprehensions and Seizures

  • In fiscal years 2009 and 2010, CBP seized more than $104 million in southbound illegal currency – an increase of more than $28 million compared to 2007- 2008.
  • Further, in fiscal years 2009 and 2010, CBP and ICE seized more than $282 million in illegal currency, more than 7 million pounds of drugs, and more than 6,800 weapons along the southwest border – increases of more than $73 million, more than 1 million pounds of drugs and more than 1,500 weapons compared to 2007-2008.
  • Nationwide Border Patrol apprehensions of illegal aliens decreased from nearly 724,000 in FY 2008 to approximately 463,000 in FY 2010, a 36% reduction, indicating that fewer people are attempting to illegally cross the border.
  • Between 2004 and 2010, the number of Border Patrol apprehensions along the Southwest Border has decreased by more than 60% (approximately 1,139,300 in FY 2004 to approximately 447,500 in FY 2010).
  • In FY 2009 and FY 2010, ICE made over 20,102 criminal arrests along the Southwest border, an increase of approximately 12% compared to the two previous years. Over 12,857 of these arrests were of drug smugglers and over 2,562 of these arrests were of human smugglers.

State and Local Engagement

  • DHS is in regular contact with law enforcement along the Southwest border, including prosecutors, sheriffs and chiefs of police, providing the latest intelligence and coordinating operational priorities.
  • DHS law enforcement officials in the field are in daily contact with their state and local partners, serving together on task forces and regularly conducting joint operations.
  • In 2009 and 2010, DHS provided $124 million in Operation Stonegarden funding to Southwest border law enforcement agencies - a record amount.
  • Based on risk, cross-border traffic and border-related threat intelligence, 82 percent of 2009 and 2010 Operation Stonegarden funds went to Southwest border states, up from 59 percent in 2008.

Cooperation with Mexico

  • Secretary Napolitano and her Mexican counterparts have engaged in an unprecedented level of cooperation, signing a number of bilateral agreements and declarations to bolster cooperation in the areas of enforcement, planning, information and intelligence sharing, joint operations and trade facilitation along the Southwest border.

Crime and Safety

  • According to a new FBI report, the top four big cities in America with the lowest rates of violent crime are all in Border States – San Diego, Phoenix, El Paso and Austin.
  • According to 2009 FBI crime reports, violent crimes in Southwest border counties have dropped by more than 30 percent in the last two decades and are currently among the lowest in the nation per capita.
  • Crime rates in Nogales, Douglas, Yuma and other Arizona border towns have remained essentially flat for the past decade, even as drug-related violence has dramatically increased in Mexico.

This page was last reviewed / modified on October 18, 2010.

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