Now, as Washington considers immigration reform, the border patrol and its mission are again in the spotlight. Many Republicans say reform, without increased border security, is a nonstarter. But Mr. Bush's surge offers lessons about what can realistically be accomplished – and what tops an unfinished to-do list.
Statistical and anecdotal evidence show there has been progress in reining in illegal immigration, most agree. But there have been unintended consequences, such as the rise in human trafficking to avert the border buildup. Moreover, many stakeholders remain divided about whether the border needs even more attention, or whether the United States should shift its focus on immigration-enforcement efforts inward.
"While we have made enormous progress in improving border security, the job is not finished," says Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates tighter border enforcement.
That sentiment is echoed by Republicans whose support could be crucial to immigration reform. During the first Senate hearing on the topic this year, GOP senators challenged the assertion by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano that "our borders have, in fact, never been stronger."