In an interview airing on the Sunday morning talk show, ABC’s “This Week,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) confessed his ignorance of U.S. immigration law and was outright dismissive of the importance of border security. (The Hill, Feb. 3, 2013)

When asked specifically about Senator Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) statement that the government must achieve “operational control” of the borders before considering amnesty for illegal aliens, Majority Leader Reid replied , “I don’t know what that means, and I don’t think [Sen. Rubio] does, either,” Reid said. “The fact is, we have some metrics we’re talking about, some numbers, and we can do that. But this legislation is going to pass,” he continued. (See ABC News Transcript, Feb. 3, 2013)

Reid’s statement that he does not understand the meaning of operational control indicates that the Senate Majority Leader is either ignorant of federal statute, unaware of Border Patrol practice, or simply does not care whether the border is secure.  First, Congress defined the term “operational control” in the 2006 Secure Fence Act (a bill which he voted against). (See Senate Roll Call Vote #262).  The Act defined operational control to mean “the prevention of all unlawful entries into the United States, including entries by terrorists, other unlawful aliens, instruments of terrorism, narcotics, and other contraband.” (See P.L. 109-367)

Second, the Border Patrol for years measured its effectiveness by identifying the number of miles along the border that were under “operational control.”  Within the agency, the Border Patrol used  a similar definition of “operational control, ” characterizing it as the “ability to detect, identify, classify, and then respond to and resolve illegal entries along our U.S. borders.” (See Testimony of Chief Fisher; Feb. 15, 2011)

Most important, however, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), has found that neither the northern nor southern border is close to meeting Congress’ or the Administration’s definition of “operational control.” In 2010, the GAO issued a report on border security, which noted that only 69 of roughly 4,000 miles along the northern border are under “operational control,” and that only 873 of about 2,000 miles are under “operational control” along the southern border.   (See GAO-11-97, Dec. 2010)  The result of the government’s failure to secure the borders has been a steady illegal alien population (despite some removals) and drug cartel activity in over 1,200 U.S. cities.

It remains to be seen how Majority Leader Reid’s comments will be received by his colleagues in the Senate.