Border Security: Projected Surge in Demand for Visas and Passports in Mexico
by Jim Kouri, CPP
In fiscal year 2007, the US Mission in Mexico (Mission Mexico) processed 1.5 million of the 8 million nonimmigrant visas (NIV) that the Department of State (State) handled worldwide. This workload is expected to increase dramatically in the coming years as millions of NIV Border Crossing Cards issued in Mexico during fiscal years 1998 to 2002 expire and need to be renewed.
Consulates will also face increased workloads due to implementation of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), which requires US citizens to carry passports, or other approved documentation, when traveling between the United States and Mexico, including by land.
According to US State Department forecasts, Mission Mexico's NIV demand will likely peak at slightly less than 3 million applications in fiscal year 2011, almost twice the number in fiscal year 2007.
Though State Department officials acknowledge there are uncertainties regarding the number of Border Crossing Card holders who will renew their cards and the number of first-time NIV applicants, the forecasts provide a reasonable basis for planning for the anticipated surge in NIV demand.
In addition to its increase in NIV workload, Mission Mexico will be facing increases in its passport workload due to the implementation of WHTI. The magnitude of the increase in passport workload is more difficult to forecast than for NIVs because there is a great deal of uncertainty as to how many US citizens live in Mexico and the number of these citizens likely to apply for a passport. Mission Mexico has already seen a significant increase in its passport workload as US citizens living in Mexico have begun to apply for passports in response to the new documentary requirements.
State Department officials forecast that passport workload will peak in fiscal year 2009 with WHTI's anticipated implementation at land ports of entry. State Department officials are taking steps to help ensure US consulates in Mexico keep pace with anticipated demand for NIVs and US passports, including adding interviewing windows to several high-demand posts and planning to hire about 100 temporary adjudicating officers.
Consular officials at several posts generally agreed these efforts to expand resources should be adequate for Mission Mexico to keep pace with expected workload increases, and GAO's analysis indicates the mission will generally have enough interviewing windows during the surge.
Several posts will rely on additional temporary adjudicators to keep pace with increased demand. State Department officials told the US Congress that they are confident they have an adequate pool of potential applicants.
Mission Mexico may also gain additional capacity from a pilot program, under way at two posts, outsourcing a portion of the NIV application process to off-site facilities. State Department officials have said they intend to evaluate the pilot program but they have not indicated if its evaluation plans include an assessment of risks related to fraud and security.
It's been recommended by several security and law enforcement experts that any attempts at revamping the current system will include significant input from ranking members of the US Border Patrol and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement directorate, since their primary concerns are border security, public safety for American citizens and residents, and controlling the flow of illegal aliens across the US-Mexican border.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for a number of organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. He writes for many police and crime magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer, Campus Law Enforcement Journal, and others. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com, Booksamillion.com, and can be ordered at local bookstores. Kouri holds a bachelor of science in criminal justice and master of arts in public administration and he's a board certified protection professional.