Border security is a top issue with American voters. President Biden is responding by signing executive action that he claims will help secure our borders.

Is this a meaningful step to rein in the chaos at our borders or political theater?

I served as a U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) agent for nearly 30 years and retired as chief during the Biden administration. That professional firsthand experience informs my opinion on the situation on our southern border.

In 1992, the USBP was making thousands of arrests each day and seizing a lot of narcotics. Yet, we did not have any meaningful control of our international borders between the ports of entry. Lawlessness was a significant threat to public safety. The border chaos was increasingly garnering nightly national news coverage.

In 1994, under the Clinton administration, the USBP established the first real border security strategy focused on preventing illegal entries and reestablishing control of our international borders. The strategy was rolled out as Operations Hold the Line in El Paso, Texas, and Gatekeeper in San Diego, California.

The deterrence strategy was effective, but not very efficient. Creating a visible deterrence to discourage illegal entries took a lot of agents. Personnel are the most valuable, and expensive, resource. This led the Border Patrol to start building a system of walls and fences, as well as roads, lights and sensor technology. This allowed agents to do more, improving efficiency and safety.

A great example of this was in the 12-mile section of border near San Diego, where these improvements allowed the Border Patrol to do its job with 150 fewer agents, saving taxpayers about $28 million per year in salaries and benefits alone.

USBP, in coordination with the U.S. attorney’s office, further enhanced the deterrence strategy by applying a menu of prosecutorial and removal consequences to aliens who were arrested entering illegally. Getting serious about enforcing the law resulted in fewer lawbreakers.

Through the presidential administrations of Clinton, Bush, Obama and Trump, this strategy evolved and improved, but the general principles remained intact.

It is important to note that prior to the Trump administration, the strategy enjoyed significant bipartisan support. As the USBP gained control of previously lawless sections of border, illegal entries decreased, allowing agents to increase patrols and increase efforts to identify, interdict and prosecute members of the transnational criminal organizations that pose a significant threat to border security and public safety.

By December 2020, the U.S. had the most secure border in the history of our nation, and a proven plan to continue improvements. We had an overall decrease in entries and the highest level of situational awareness ever.

But during the 2020 presidential campaigns, candidate Biden committed to ending the deterrence strategy and allowing more migrants into the country.

Immediately following his inauguration, Biden fulfilled his campaign promise. He quicky terminated the migrant protection protocols and halted all border security infrastructure improvements.

Biden walked away from the 27-year bipartisan, deterrence strategy in favor of a reactionary strategy. Performance metrics like situational awareness, arrests, seizures, turn backs and got-a-ways were replaced with reducing processing times as well as reducing total time in custody.

Combined, these actions effectively removed meaningful consequences for illegally entering our nation. Catch and release was effectively reintroduced.

Biden’s policy shift triggered a tsunami of illegal immigration. The border security gains earned over three decades vanished and Biden surrendered control of our border to transnational criminal organizations – the cartels.

Cartels rely on an endless flow of illegal immigration to overwhelm border law enforcement. Over 1,000 illegal entries per day is more than enough to enable the cartels to shape the environment to facilitate the smuggling of narcotics, contraband and any alien willing to pay extra to avoid being fingerprinted.

Since January 2021, USBP has encountered and or documented approximately 10 million illegal entries. This includes approximately two million known got-a-ways and over 350 aliens on the national terrorism watchlist – and these are the dumb ones who get caught.

Think of border security the same way you think of securing your own home. Everyone, regardless of weight, height or gender, should enter through the front door. Bad immigration policies are akin to allowing anyone to enter your house without your permission and without your knowing who they are.

Without the willingness to actually control who and what enters our national home, any sense of safety is a façade.