Fuzzy Numbers: Fox's Bolling Claims Obama Has Cut Border Spending “In Half”

On his Fox Business show, Eric Bolling claimed that “President Obama has cut spending on the border in half.” In reality, the Customs and Border Patrol budget has increased under Obama, the number of Border Patrol personnel has increased, and spending on immigration enforcement is greater under his administration than under the Bush administration.

Bolling Claims Obama Has “Cut Spending On The Border In Half”

Bolling: “The Truth Is, President Obama Has Cut Spending On The Border In Half.” From the November 29 edition of Bolling's Fox Business show, Follow the Money:

BOLLING: The borders are broken, and we can't wait any longer to fix them. The truth is, President Obama has cut spending on the border in half. The problem is so bad Arizona is rolling up its sleeves and breaking ground on its own do-it-yourself border fence. That's what we call stimulus around here. [Fox Business, Follow the Money, 11/29/11]

CNS News: “The Obama Administration Has Slashed Spending On Border Fencing, Infrastructure And Technology ... By More Than Half.” From an article on CNSNews.com, the “news” site run by the right-wing Media Research Center:

The Obama administration has slashed spending on border fencing, infrastructure and technology, cutting it by more than half since it peaked under President George W. Bush in fiscal 2008, according to a Government Accountability Office report.

In 2008, according to GAO, the federal government spent more than $1.3 billion on border security fencing, infrastructure and technology. In 2011, it spend $573 million.

Meanwhile, Customs and Border Protection has said that as of June it had fenced only 649 miles of the nearly 1,954-mile-long U.S.-Mexico border--leaving more than 1,300 miles of that border unfenced.

The November 2011 GAO report refers to this category of federal spending by the acronym BSFIT. [CNSnews.com, 11/28/11]

Figures In CNS Article Include “Border Fencing, Infrastructure, And Technology” -- Not Total Border Spending

GAO Report Covers “Expenditure Plan On Border Security Fencing, Infrastructure, And Technology (BSFIT).” From a chart in the GAO document referenced by CNSNews.com:


[GAO, Briefing on U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Border Security Fencing, Infrastructure, and Technology Fiscal Year 2011 Expenditure Plan, 11/16/11]

In Fact, The Total Customs And Border Patrol Budget Has Increased Since Obama Took Office

CBP Budget Has Increased From $7.7 Billion in FY 2007 To A Budget Request Of $11.2 Billion In FY 2011. A chart created by Media Matters, using numbers from Department of Homeland Security publications, shows the total CBP budget from fiscal year 2007 through the request in Obama's fiscal year 2011 budget:

[Department of Homeland Security Budget-in-Brief, FY 2009, accessed 12/1/11, Department of Homeland Security Budget-in-Brief, FY 2010, accessed 12/1/11, Department of Homeland Security Budget-in-Brief, FY 2011, accessed 12/1/11]

Obama Has Also Increased Number Of Border Patrol Personnel ...

NYT: “Obama To Send Up To 1,200 Troops To Border.” In May 2010, President Obama authorized up to 1,200 National Guard troops to be stationed on the Southwest border.

President Obama will send up to 1,200 National Guard troops to the Southwest border and seek increased spending on law enforcement there to combat drug smuggling after demands from Republican and Democratic lawmakers that border security be tightened.

The decision was disclosed by a Democratic lawmaker and confirmed by administration officials after Mr. Obama met on Tuesday with Republican senators, several of whom have demanded that troops be placed at the border. The lawmakers learned of the plan after the meeting. [The New York Times, 5/25/10]

Obama Extended The Stay Of The National Guard Troops Through The End Of 2011. From The Hill:

The Obama administration has extended the deployment of 1,200 National Guard troops stationed along the U.S.-Mexico border until the end of the year.

The Department of Defense (DOD) -- at the request of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) -- approved funding for the National Guard troops, who have been stationed in the Southwest border region for more than a year in an effort to ramp up security against drug, gun and money traffickers, as well as illegal immigration. [The Hill, 9/9/11]

In August 2010, Obama Signed A Bill To Fund 1,500 New Border Agents, New Border Patrol Stations. The New York Times reported:

President Obama signed into law a $600 million bill on Friday to pay for 1,500 new border agents, additional unmanned surveillance drones and new Border Patrol stations along the southwest border.


Mr. Obama requested the funds in June, after he announced he would send 1,200 National Guard troops to support agents along the border. [The New York Times, 8/13/10]

The Number Of Border Patrol Agents Roughly Doubled Between 2004 And 2010. From a report on border security by the Congressional Research Service:

Figure 2 shows that Border Patrol agent manpower assigned to the southwest border has been increasing steadily since the early 1990s. In 1992, there were 3,555 agents assigned to the southern border, by 2000 that number had increased by 141% to 8,580. Since 2000, the number of agents assigned to the southern border has continued to increase, more than doubling once more to 20,119 agents at the end of FY2009. The rapid and steady increase of Border Patrol agents assigned to the southern border reflects the ongoing interest in Congress in stemming the tide of illegal immigration. The FY2011 Budget Request, however, includes a requested reduction of 181 Border Patrol agents.


[Congressional Research Service, Border Security: The Role of the U.S. Border Patrol, 3/3/10]

... And Spending On Immigration Enforcement Is Higher Under Obama Than Bush

Obama Has Increased The Budgets Of Customs And Border Protection And Immigration And Customs Enforcement. From budget data from the Department of Homeland Security compiled by America's Voice, which advocates for comprehensive immigration reform:

america's voice

[America's Voice, Border/Enforcement Spending and Deportation Levels Continue to Skyrocket Under Obama, 5/25/10]

Deportations Have Increased Under Obama. According to data from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), nearly 100,000 more people were deported by ICE in both 2009 and 2010 than in 2007. [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, accessed 2/14/11]

Deportations Of Convicted Criminals Are At Their Highest Levels. According to AZ Fact Check -- a project of The Arizona Republic, AZCentral.com, 12 News, and Arizona State University -- “ICE has removal numbers immediately available for only the past 10 fiscal years, and according to those figures, the most convicted criminals were indeed removed in fiscal 2010.” [AZ Fact Check, 2/9/11]

Number Of Illegal Immigrants Arrested At AZ-Mexico Border Dropped Over 40 Percent In Past Year. The Arizona Republic reported:

The number of illegal immigrants arrested by the Border Patrol in the Tucson Sector fell by more than 40 percent last year, a significant drop that indicates illegal immigration has slowed considerably in Arizona.

Official statistics won't be released for several weeks, but Alan Bersin, the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, told Border Patrol agents in Nogales this week that arrests in the Tucson Sector fell to 123,000 last fiscal year. Arrests in the Nogales station, the largest in the Tucson Sector, fell by 43 percent to 18,000.

“Ladies and gentlemen, know that you are engaged in a historic enterprise here,” Bersin told the agents. The drop in arrests, he said, shows that illegal immigrants “are not coming through here anymore, and when they do, they are getting apprehended.” [The Arizona Republic, 11/5/11]

While The U.S.-Mexico Border Fence Is Nearly Complete ...

Border Patrol Chief: 650 Of 652 Miles Of Fencing Complete “Where Border Patrol Field Commanders Determined It Was Operationally Required.” From the testimony of Border Patrol Chief Michael J. Fisher before the House Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, dated October 4:

In addition, we have now constructed 650 miles of fencing out of nearly 652 miles where Border Patrol field commanders determined it was operationally required along the Southwest border, including 299 miles of vehicle barriers and 351 miles of pedestrian fence. We have also improved our technological capabilities, including the installation of remote video surveillance cameras in the Detroit and Buffalo Sectors, among other technologies. [DHS.gov, released 10/4/11]

... The Deterrent Effect Of Border Fences Remains Speculative

GAO Report: Customs And Border Protection Has Been Unable To “Account Separately For The Impact Of The Border Fencing And Other Infrastructure” On Border Control. A March 30 report by the GAO shows that the CBP concluded that there were 4,037 breaches to the U.S.-Mexico border fence in fiscal year 2010, and those breaches cost the CBP “at least $7.2 million to repair.” From the report:

We reported in May 2010 that CBP had not accounted for the impact of its investment in border fencing and infrastructure on border security. Border fencing was designed to prevent people on foot and vehicles from crossing the border and to enhance Border Patrol agents' ability to respond to areas of illegal entry. CBP estimated that the border fencing had a life cycle of 20 years and over these years, a total estimated cost of about $6.5 billion to deploy, operate, and maintain the fencing and other infrastructure. According to CBP, during fiscal year 2010, there were 4,037 documented and repaired breaches of the fencing and CBP spent at least $7.2 million to repair the breaches, or an average of about $1,800 per breach. CBP reported an increase in control of southwest border miles, but could not account separately for the impact of the border fencing and other infrastructure. In our May 4, 2010, testimony, we concluded that until CBP determines the contribution of border fencing and other infrastructure to border security, it is not positioned to address the impact of its investment; and reported that in response to a prior recommendation, CBP was in the process of conducting an analysis of the impact of tactical infrastructure on border security. [GAO, 3/30/11]

CBP Commissioner: A Fence Along The Entire U.S.-Mexico Border Is “One Of The Dumbest Ideas.” In an October 25 U.S. News & World Report blog post titled “Why a Border Fence Wouldn't Work,” Ralph Basham, former commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said it is against common sense to build a border fence in an attempt to control illegal immigration:

Building a physical fence along the entire border with Mexico was one of the dumbest ideas I heard when I was commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. It is critical to recognize that fencing (even with barbed wire, electrification, and possibly a moat filled with alligators) is not a solution, it is only a tool. There's a fundamental misunderstanding about what a physical barrier -- even the triple-layer fencing in San Diego -- actually does or doesn't do for the agency charged with building fencing and securing the border. All it really does is buy you time where a crosser could otherwise quickly escape or assimilate. None of the fencing is impenetrable. People will eventually dig under it or cut through it or go over it, but it gives you enough time to respond and apprehend them.


As debate continues about how to best ensure our national security it is important to identify the real threats and develop realistic solutions. In the face of constrained budgets, spending billions on unnecessary fences is not viable. If the symbol of the fence in political campaigns keeps us talking about remaining border security challenges and new and creative approaches that will build on the progress to date then it's not all bad. But if it deceives the public into believing in 2,000 miles of wall as a magic solution to the hard problems of three decades of uncontrolled immigration, the only thing being fenced is our common sense. [U.S. News & World Report, 10/25/11]

AZ Sheriff Larry Dever On Border Fence Fundraising: “Unless It's The Right Kind Of Fence And Unless You Have The Manpower To Watch It, It's Of Very Little Or No Value.” Sheriff Larry Dever of Cochise County, Arizona, a strong proponent of increased border security, expressed skepticism about the plan to build a fence:

Some of the biggest stakeholders in border security, including sheriffs and private land owners near the border, appreciate Smith's efforts but said they aren't sure they will donate.

Sheriff Larry Dever of Cochise County said border fencing simply doesn't work. Dever is co-chair of bordersheriffs.com. Bordersherrifs.com is helping to fight the legal battles against Arizona immigration legislation.

“I think it's well intentioned, but you can build all the fence you want to build and unless it's the right kind of fence and unless you have the manpower to watch it, it's of very little or no value,” Dever told msnbc.com. “The federal government has built a lot of fence and most of it has been inadequate in terms of actually stopping people from crossing.” [MSNBC.com, 7/18/11]

McCain: A Border Fence Is “Least Effective.” From a 2007 Vanity Fair article:

[I]n Milwaukee, in front of an audience of more sympathetic businessmen, McCain had been asked how debate over the immigration bill was playing politically. “In the short term, it probably galvanizes our base,” he said. “In the long term, if you alienate the Hispanics, you'll pay a heavy price.” Then he added, unable to help himself, “By the way, I think the fence is least effective. But I'll build the goddamned fence if they want it.” [Vanity Fair, February 2007]

  • In 2010, McCain Reversed Himself And Demanded That The United States “Complete The Danged Fence.” [ABCNews.com, 5/11/10]