El Paso Times
October 8, 2008
AUSTIN - Illegal border crossings in Texas have dropped dramatically in the last four years even without a fence to keep out scofflaws, statistics that a group of border political and business leaders said Wednesday show the barrier is unnecessary.
"In Texas, we are securing the border with more Border Patrol and smarter enforcement," said Eagle Pass Mayor Chad Foster, chairman of the Texas Border Coalition. "We don't need a fence."
While U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials say the fence is an important part of the strategy to keep illegal immigration down, the coalition argues the data proves the $2 billion fence is a waste.
The coalition, which has long opposed border fencing, analyzed Customs and Border Protection data from 2005 to 2008. Illegal immigrant apprehensions in Texas, where there is little fencing, dropped more than 50 percent in those years, according to the coalition's analysis. Meanwhile, in areas of California where fencing exists, the analysis showed an increase.
"The Texas Border Coalition has consistently said that border walls and fences won't work," Foster said. "Illegal crossers go over, under, through and around them."
In the U.S. Border Patrol sector that includes Hudspeth and El Paso counties and all of New Mexico, apprehensions fell about 75 percent, the analysis showed. In 2005, the region saw more than 122,000 apprehensions, and in the 2008 the number shrank to about 31,000.
El Paso Border Patrol sector spokesman Doug Mosier said he wasn't sure of the precise numbers but illegal traffic had slowed dramatically in the last several months.
More agents, more technology and more infrastructure, Mosier said, have helped deter illegal immigration. So has the agency's effort to prosecute everyone who crosses illegally.
"Will it remain that way?" he asked. "We don't know."
The border fence, Mosier said, is a key to ensuring continued reduced illegal border traffic.
The fence not only prohibits traffic, but Mosier said it also prevents attacks on border agents.
"There's no doubt that the fence is effective in changing the crossing patterns," he said.
Bill Lovelady, a cotton farmer in the Lower Valley, said he's noticed fewer illegal border crossers traipsing across his property.
But he said stopping the fence in Texas because of decreasing traffic would be "idiotic" and "moronic."
"If you just leave this thing wide open," he said, "as soon as someone on the other side perceives it's to their benefit to come across, they'll just come across."