DHS Chief: There is No ‘Porous’ Border for Terrorists to Cross

Illegal immigration rose to 479,377 in fiscal year 2014, an increase of nearly 65,000 in one year and an increase of more than 40 percent over the low point in 2011, when fewer than 330,000 illegal immigrants were apprehended. The number of illegal immigrants apprehended has dropped considerably since 2000, reflected by the decline in apprehensions from 1.6 million to around 400,000 a year in the last four years.

Apprehensions of undocumented immigrants – which DHS uses as an indicator of total illegal crossing attempts – are at their lowest level since the 1970s, Johnson said.

He credited the buildup in infrastructure and manpower for stemming the flow of illegal immigrants. On the southern border alone, the number of Border Patrol agents grew from 8,619 in 2000 to 18,127 this year, while the miles of border fencing rose from 77 miles to 700 miles. The Border Patrol now has 11,863 underground sensors, 600 thermal imaging devices, 107 aircraft, 84 boats, and eight unmanned aerial vehicles – most of that added since 2000.

The DHS chief also addressed the influx of unaccompanied minors earlier this year, calling it a “setback,” and said the Obama administration “responded aggressively.”

He said the number of unaccompanied children crossing the border in fiscal year 2014 turned out to be 68,434, not far from the administration’s original projection of 60,000. In the summer, the administration had revised that number to 90,000, reflecting the more than 10,000 minors coming across the nation’s southern border every month.

Johnson noted, however, the number of unaccompanied children crossing the southern border has fallen to rates not seen since January 2013.

“Though the worst is over for now, the president and I are committed to building an even more secure border and a smart strategy to get there,” he said.

President Obama has promised to remake federal immigration policies through executive authority by the end of the year.

Johnson reaffirmed the president’s commitment to take executive action on the issue.

“We’re developing a set of reforms that I would characterize as comprehensive in nature, but within our existing legal authorities,” he said.