Border Patrol Chief Mike Fisher defended in a Congressional hearing on May 8 a new border control strategy plan. According to an Associated Press report, “Fisher was repeatedly asked why the new strategy didn’t include any specific ‘metrics’ that could help members of Congress and the public better understand if the border is secure.”

That was a critical question, because it highlighted this new effort of the administration to change the ground rules for measuring border control effectiveness. The administration has been confounded in its efforts to claim that the border is effectively secure by the current system of metrics which determine operational control – which, according to a 2011 Government Accountability Office report, showed that of the nearly 2,000 miles of our southern border, only 873 were under “operational control” and only 129 miles were under “full control.” The Obama administration’s new strategy is – if the terms of reference interfere with the administration’s rhetoric – change the terms of reference.

The announced new strategy did include other aspects of border control. One was the greater use of drone aircraft. That is not new, but does offer a pretext for lessening reliance on the continued involvement of National Guard units providing logistical assistance to the Border Patrol. Another part of the plan is prosecution of illegal entrants before deporting them. The effect of the prosecution and deportation is to expose a recidivist to imprisonment as a felon for re-entering illegally after deportation. This, too, is not new. It is a program that has been operating for a couple of years in Arizona with reported success in deterring recidivist reentry after deportation. It is more expensive than just putting Mexican illegal entrants back across the border, but has long-term promise if it continues to reduce reentry of deported illegal entrants. An exception is made in the new plan for Mexican children and pregnant women who will still be put back across the border because they represent major costs if they are held in the United States, both in terms of detention and the possibility for the delivery of ‘anchor babies’ at U.S. taxpayer expense.