Immigration and Customs Enforcement was formed after September 11, 2001 and is under the Department of Homeland Security. The task of the department is to identify, investigate, and dismantle vulnerabilities regarding the nation's border, economic, transportation, and infrastructure security.
The Department of Homeland Security reported in December that they reached their target of 18,000 border patrol agents protecting the land and sea borders of the United States, most of who are stationed along the U.S.–Mexico border. The border patrol uses a variety of tools to deter and apprehend smugglers and potential illegal immigrants, including using dune buggies to combat drug smuggling on the California-Baja California border, mounted patrols to combat human smugglers, and helicopters equipped with thermal imaging devices to find illegal alien convoys at night.
There are also many guard posts and miles of fencing, but not nearly enough to act as an effective deterrent. Recent congressional actions have taken aim at these weak areas, but more still needs to be done. These actions include:
- The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 authorized the hiring of an additional 10,000 border agents by 2010, but has not been fully funded.
- The Secure Fence Act of 2006 provided for 700 miles of border fence in areas of high drug smuggling and illegal immigration. The act also provides for more guard posts, vehicle barriers, and electronic sensing equipment. The source of the funding for this program has become nebulous as there have been disagreements between DHS and Congress over the cost. There have also been numerous legal challenges to fence building by environmental groups and disgruntled property owners.
- The SAVE Act has been introduced in the 110th Congress by Rep. Heath Schuler (D-NC). This bill would increase border patrol agents by 8,000 and increase physical border security. The main action of the SAVE Act is to utilize attrition through enforcement. It would make employers use the E-Verify system to determine the legality of an employee—if an employee or new-hire is not legally entitled to work in the United States, he or she could not be hire. Eventually, illegal aliens would be forced to return to their home country due to a lack of job opportunities. Attrition through enforcement, combined with increased border security and an effective entry/exit system, would greatly reduce the number of illegal aliens living in the United States and the number of illegal aliens coming to the United States each year.