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How secure is the U.S.-Mexico border? [Video discussion]

March 11, 2013 |  1:42 pm

How secure is the U.S.-Mexico border?

That is the question addressed by a front-page article published in Sunday's Los Angeles Times. At 2:30 p.m. Monday, The Times will hold a video chat on the subject.

Times reporters wrote:

Obama administration officials claim the frontier is more secure than ever, benefiting from the billions of taxpayer dollars spent on border defenses. There are 18,500 U.S. Border Patrol agents on the U.S.-Mexico border now, compared with 3,222 in 1986. Barriers have been built along nearly 700 miles. In 1986, most of the frontier was wide open.

Arrests of migrants have hovered around 350,000 per year recently, the lowest level since the 1970s. Falling crime rates in border communities make them some of the safest in the country. Authorities have regained control of once-trampled areas, opening the way for new subdivisions, shopping centers and industrial parks.

"We have gone above and beyond what was requested by the very Republicans who said they supported broader reform as long as we got serious about enforcement," said President Obama during a trip to the border at El Paso in 2011. "All the stuff they asked for, we've done."

But critics consider some recent gains illusory. Migrant flows have receded overall because of the lack of jobs in the U.S. The true test will come when the economy improves, they say.