Saturday, February 7, 2009

Smugglers cut border fence

Sierra Vista Herald
Febraury 7, 2009
By Jonathan Shacat

BISBEE — Smugglers recently removed two mesh panels from U.S.-Mexico border fencing located east of the San Pedro River, and Border Patrol officials have repaired them.

The precise location of these fence sections is near low-water crossing number 38, known as Gringo Wash.

The damage to one section was discovered on Jan. 28. Officials fixed it late last week. Officials noticed the damage on the other section last Monday and it was fixed this week.
Bill Odle, who owns land along the border near the San Pedro River, said the smugglers cut out the entire mesh fencing panels and then replaced them so it appeared they had not been tampered with.

He thinks they were moving vehicles across with the use of a small ramp, based on the large size of the opening and the presence of tracks on both sides of the border.

Mike Scioli, a public information officer for Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector, said every 48 hours a team goes out and puts patches onto the fencing where it has been breached.

“Agents working in the field who notice anything like that make sure a report gets sent in and they relay it to that crew and they take care of it also,” he said.

The government decided to build fencing with the “eye-aesthetically pleasing” mesh material because “a lot of people said they didn’t want the fence because it blocked their view of Mexico,” Scioli said.

Also, he said, the mesh material “is hard to climb because the little squares are so small you can’t get fingers or a foot grip in them.” More importantly, he added, the Border Patrol’s camera systems can see through it.

The mesh is thin, however, making it relatively easy for someone to use a torch to cut through it. Not all sections of fencing in the area consist of the mesh material.

“We have a number of different styles throughout the sector,” Scioli said. “There is the bollard-style that is concrete filled. It goes about 4 to 5 feet into ground and is about 14 to 16 feet high.”

Odle said the fencing is clearly not stopping people. Not only do they climb over it, they also cut it open so they can travel through it.

Angela de Rocha, of Customs and Border Protection’s office of public affairs in Washington, D.C, said the fence is only one part of a three-element strategy, including fence, surveillance technology and increased Border Patrol manpower.

“The purpose of the fence is to slow illegal crossers down enough that the Border Patrol can catch them,” she said.

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