Saturday, April 25, 2009

The border fence doesn't stop drug smugglers; four arrested tossing over marijuana

Brownsville Herald / The Monitor
April 24, 2009
by Jared Janes

The border wall was no barrier to 10 or so people who climbed it one night late last month carrying several bundles of marijuana.

U.S. Border Patrol agents driving along the wall that night saw the men as they scaled the top. A chase resulted in the arrest of four of the men and the recovery of several hundred pounds of pot.

The scaling of the wall provided more fodder for border wall detractors, who have long argued that no fence could ever be too tall, too deep or too long for anyone who really wanted to get past it.

But Border Patrol officials who see the wall as a crucial tool in their security efforts insist it's functioning perfectly in line with its intended purpose.

Apprehensions of illegal immigrants are down in Hidalgo County since the wall neared completion, an indicator that fewer people are trying to cross, said Dan Doty, a local Border Patrol spokesman.

The decline is in line with a national decrease in apprehensions since federal officials started constructing 670 miles of border fence two years ago.

While Washington officials acknowledge the decline may be due in part to factors such as the economy, Doty said the numbers don't present the whole picture of how the wall is working in the Rio Grande Valley.

The barrier directs illegal entry away from populated areas into rural areas, making it easier to apprehend drug smugglers and illegal immigrants and reducing dangers posed to the city residents, Doty said. And in those instances when illegal crossers have sought to circumvent the wall, the barrier has worked as intended.

"It slowed them," Doty said of the late March smuggling attempt. "They got over it but we caught them. It served its purpose and did exactly what we planned it to do."


Going over it is only one option.

Since Congress authorized nearly $3 billion for 670 miles of fencing from Brownsville to San Diego, authorities have encountered a variety of ways smugglers and illegal immigrants continue to thwart the fence, said Lloyd Easterling, a spokesman for the Border Patrol in Washington.

In Nogales, Ariz., repeated tunneling by drug smugglers has been deterred by a 12-foot underground concrete barrier that a private contractor built last month. In New Mexico, illegal immigrants who attack the wall with torches and hacksaws force agents to make daily fixes.

And in San Diego, which has had double and triple fencing near Tijuana since the 1990s, the border fence leads some to take chances with the waves, hoping the tide carries their small boats around the barrier to a favorable spot.

Easterling said breaches aren't necessarily failures.

"It stands to reason that it's a success if they're trying so hard to defeat that fence," he said. "We all realize ... it's not going to stop people - it is meant to give us time."

With improved technology, more manpower, extra lighting, new surveillance equipment and the border fence, the number of apprehensions of illegal immigrants - the most reliable measure of those trying to slip into the United States from Mexico - was down nearly 50 percent last year from the Border Patrol's peak of about 1.6 million apprehensions in 2000, Easterling said.

The national numbers are poised to fall again this year as Border Patrol reported a 24 percent decrease in apprehensions for the most recent six-month period compared to the same time frame one year earlier.

In the Yuma, Ariz., region, the single-busiest Border Patrol sector, apprehensions dropped from a high of 138,000 in 2005 to 8,363 in 2008, the first year the sector had the fence.

A weaker U.S. economy is also impacting the number of illegal entries by reducing economic incentives for crossing, Easterling said. But tough enforcement measures - from the fence to adding more Border Patrol agents to prosecuting more people - are deterring some would-be crossers.

Easterling likens the fence to one leg in a three-legged stool that also includes new technology such as motion sensors and cameras and additional manpower in the form of 6,000 new agents.

"You really do need all of those things," he said. "If you only have two legs, the stool collapses."


The best way to see how the wall is helping the Border Patrol stop illegal entries is to look at the ground, Doty said. Near Granjeno, a well-worn path once led illegal immigrants away from Mexico toward the center of the city.

But as crews started construction on the barrier outside the city, he said, the path moved away from the city, toward an area where the wall was not being built.

Unlike sections of the wall in New Mexico and Arizona where the intent is to deny access, the easiest way for people to thwart the levee-barrier is to go around it, Doty said. The result is that they are directed away from the urban areas into places where they are easier to apprehend, which reduces the danger to residents.

But in Granjeno, where "No Border Wall" signs still line chain-link fences despite the barrier looming in view from people's backyards, lifelong resident Gerardo Mata Jr. worries the fence might increase the danger.

A staunch opponent of the wall, the 32-year-old said the barrier could lead desperate drug runners to try more violent ways to smuggle their product into the country.

The barrier has reduced the number of people he sees coming through his backyard, which abuts the wall, but he estimates three out of five still find a way around.

"It was always the wrong approach," he said. "They still get around it. It's not keeping away everybody."

That view was once shared by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who as Arizona governor remarked that a 12-foot fence would be conquered with a 13-foot ladder.

However, Napolitano has since reversed that stance, saying the fence can be an effective border security tool if used wisely. She also has said she may consider more fencing in some areas as crews finish the last 50 miles of border barrier being built under the current mandate.

Doty acknowledged some will find a way around the Hidalgo County levee-wall, which is now effectively complete. But regardless of how they try to do that, he said, the fence gives Border Patrol agents a better chance of stopping them.

"If we see someone with a 20-foot ladder running toward the fence, we're going to catch them," Doty said in jest. "There's going to be ways around (the fence), but it wasn't meant to be the only solution."


zeezil said...

Fences Work

Fences work, they just have to be engineered and properly constructed. Consider the 14-mile double-layer fence between San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico. Its benefits in stopping illegal entry into the U.S. were immediate and long lasting. Prior to the fence, illegals poured through the border here and in one 24-hour period the border patrol reported apprehending 2,000 illegal aliens. According to a 2005 Congressional Research Service report illegal alien apprehensions along the fence region dropped from 202,000 in 1992 to 9,000 in 2004, a reduction greater than 95%. Additionally, there was a 53% drop in San Diego’s crime rate, as reported by Congressman Duncan Hunter. The open borders lobby ignores these facts when they say fences will not work.

So, fences won’t work? Let’s take an around the world tour and see if anything else with fences is going on.

North Korea/South Korea: Called "the scariest place on earth" by President Bill Clinton, this 155-mile-long, 2.5 mile wide demilitarized zone has separated the two Koreas since 1953 and is the most heavily fortified border in the world.

North Korea/China: It was confirmed in 2006 that China was in the midst of fence construction on its border with North Korea. Long amicable allies, China had become concerned with the large illegal influx of North Koreans into its territory over the previously lightly guarded border. The project is spearheaded by China’s military in order to establish security.

Belfast, Northern Ireland: Nicknamed the "Peace Line," this series of brick, iron, and steel barriers was first erected in the 1970s to curb escalating violence between Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods. The barriers have more than doubled in number over the past decade, and currently stretch over thirteen miles of Northern Ireland.

Cyprus: A 112-mile-long construction of concrete, barbed wire, watchtowers, minefields, and ditches has separated the island's Turks from its Greeks since 1974. The Turkish Cypriot government reduced restrictions on cross-border travel in April of 2003.

Morocco/Western Sahara: Known as "The Wall of Shame," these ten-foot-high sand and stone barriers, some mined, run for at least 1,500 miles through the Western Sahara. Built in six stages from 1980 to 1987, they are intended to keep West Saharan guerrilla fighters out of Morocco.

Israel/Palestine: The Israeli government, observing how effective the security fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip has been at keeping out suicide bombers, decided in 2003 to start fencing off the West Bank as well because after scores of suicide bombings and daily terrorist attacks against its civilians that had killed more than 850 people and wounded thousands more since September 2000. The 490-mile anti-terrorist barrier has proven a huge success even before it was finished as statistics two years into the project indicated attacks had declined by as much as 90 percent and the number of Israelis murdered and wounded has decreased by more than 70% and 85%, respectively.
The fence should be fully completed by 2010. Note: Hamas militants in Jan. 2008 blew up a 200 meter portion of the Gaza strip fence which enabled thousands of Palestinians to pour into Egypt before order was restored.

India/Bangladesh: India started construction in 2000 of a 2500 mile fence based on the design of the Israeli West Bank barrier. Its purpose is to stop smuggling, terrorist infiltrations and illegal immigration from Bangladesh. To date, approximately 1550 miles have been built. Wikipedia reports the U.S. has pumped $1.2 billion into the project.

India/Pakistan: In 1989 India began erecting a fence to stem the flow of arms from Pakistan. So far it has installed more than 700 miles of fencing, much of which is electrified and stands in the disputed Kashmir region. The anti-terrorist barriers will eventually run the entire 1,800-mile border with Pakistan.

India/ Myanmar (Burma): A separation barrier that India started constructing in 2003 to seal off its 975-mile border with Myanmar. The stated purpose is to curtail cross border crime, smuggling, drug trafficking, insurgency and illegal immigration.

Pakistan/Afghanistan: Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, citing India’s success with its fence on the Pakistan border announced in Sept. 2005, his intention to build a 1,500 mile fence and mine the border with Afghanistan. This is thought to be more likely political posturing and without a massive influx of U.S. dollars will never come to fruition. The political and tribal hurdles would likely doom any serious intention.

Kuwait/Iraq: The 120-mile demilitarized zone along this border has been manned by UN soldiers and observers since the Gulf War ended, in 1991. Made of electric fencing and wire, and supplemented by fifteen-foot-wide trenches, the barrier extends from Saudi Arabia to the Persian Gulf. Kuwait has since install an additional 135-mile iron partition.

United Arab Emirates/Oman: Starting in 2005, the UAE has been erecting a barrier fence along its border with Oman to prevent the flow of drugs, terrorists and illegal immigrants.

Russia/ Chechnya: Noting Israel’s success with it’s West Bank barrier Russia has declared it’s intention to seriously consider constructing a fence on its Chechnya border in order to combat Muslim terrorism.

Uzbek/Afghanistan: A barrier coursing the entire 130 mile border consisting of two fences, one barbed wire and the second a taller 380-volt electrified fence with land mines and patrolled by armed Uzbek soldiers.

Malaysia/Thailand: In 2001, the two countries jointly agreed to construct a fence along their 400 mile border to reduce smuggling and stop the infiltration of Malaysian Muslim extremist groups that led to the South Thailand Insurgency, a separatist campaign in Thailand’s three southernmost provinces. The actual progress on this fence is unknown at this time.

Brunei/Malaysia: In 2005, Brunei built a security fence along its 20-kilometer border with Limbang, Malaysia in order to control illegal immigration and smuggling.

United States/Mexico: In the mid-1990s President Clinton initiated two programs; Operation Gatekeeper and Operation Hold the Line, to crack down on illegal immigration from Mexico. They produced a system of high-tech barriers, including a fourteen-mile fence separating San Diego from Tijuana. By 2005, security barriers stretched along at least seventy miles of the border. Recognizing the success of the San Diego corridor barrier, Congress passed the Secure Fence Act of 2006 mandating the construction of 700 miles of border fence along the Mexico border including “two layers of reinforced fencing” and listed five specific sections of border where it should be installed. Just before Christmas 2007, Congress passed an Omnibus spending bill that removed the two-tier requirement and the list of locations specified. Also, an additional kicker was slipped into the bill, the Hutchinson Amendment which allowed the secretary of DHS to not build the fence anywhere he deemed it “not appropriate”. So how this all shakes out for the border fence construction that is plodding along on our southern border and it’s ultimate success remains to be seen.

Botswana/Zimbabwe: The government of Botswana claims to have started building a ten-foot-high electric fence along its border with Zimbabwe to control the spread of foot-and-mouth disease. However, most Zimbabweans believe that the fence -- begun in 2003 and intended to stretch up to 300 miles -- really aims to stanch the immigration flow from troubled Zimbabwe into calmer Botswana.

Saudi Arabia/Yemen: In 2003 Saudi Arabia began building a ten-foot-high barrier along its border with Yemen to prevent terrorist infiltration. Heeding Yemeni protests that the fence violated a border treaty, the Saudi government vowed to complete the project in cooperation with Yemen. A February 2007 report in the Arab Times indicates the Saudi’s remain committed to fully fencing its border with Yemen.

Saudi Arabia/Iraq: In 2006, the Saudi’s put out calls for bid on a 900 kilometer fence running the distance of its border with Iraq. It is reported this is part of a larger package of fence building to secure all of Saudi Arabia's 6,500 kilometers of border.

Ceruta/Morroco and Melilla/Morocco : A border fence built by Spain with EU funding between Morocco and the Spanish city’s of Ceruta and Melilla on the north Moroccan coast to stop illegal immigration and smuggling.

Egypt/Gaza: The United States announced in March 2008 that it is giving Egypt $23 million and technical assistance to help Egypt build a border fence along the Gaza-Egypt border to eliminate smuggling and entry of Palestinian militants. The dichotomy here is obvious as the U.S. is set to help Egypt secure its border yet sabotages and drags it feet in securing our own border with Mexico.

All of the fences detailed that have been built are successful, some to more degrees than others, but successful nonetheless. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that fences won’t work because they do. If fences didn’t work, governments all over the world would not be investing in them. Critics of the U.S. border fence like to portray it as an evil Berlin Wall type barrier, which could not be further from the truth. Our border fence does not keep people in and reduce their freedom, it keeps illegal immigrants and terrorists out thereby securing freedom and security on both sides of the border. It also separates people of two distinct nations unlike the Berlin Wall, which separated two of the same people, Germans from Germans. If there were not the propensity of Mexican nationals and OTM’s (Other Than Mexicans) to illegally cross our border at will and help themselves to whatever they found to their liking in our country while encouraged and abetted by the Mexican and other foreign governments, the border fence would be unnecessary. Since the mass illegal crossings won’t cease anytime soon, perhaps never, the fence becomes a necessity.

If you don’t wish to overload the naysayers negative mindset and illogical open borders philosophers with all the facts above, then just give them this quote from poet Robert Frost (and supported by a study co-authored in 2007 by the New England Complex Systems Institute and Brandeis University)…”Good fences make good neighbors”. Or, if you’d just like to be a bit snarky ask them this, “If fences don’t work why is there one around the White House?”



While you list a number of walls, you don't give any information about their efficacy, or lack thereof. You also neglect to mention the fact that in the case of North Korea, Israel, and Berlin (and I suspect a few of the others) it was not the wall that restricted passage, but the guards sitting atop the wall who shot anyone who tried to cross. North Korea also uses abundant land mines for good measure. Thankfully, the United States has not resorted to such brutal measures to keep out carpenters and agricultural laborers.

As for the Congressional Research Service report that you mention, it found that overall the border wall had "no discernible impact" on the number of undocumented immigrants entering the United States each year. At most the border wall redirects immigrants, just as a pothole on the road that I usually take to work redirects me. I still get where I am going, but it takes an extra 5 minutes. Coincidentally, 5 minutes is the amount of time that the Border Patrol says the wall slows down a crosser.

The border wall does not work (unless you work for Boeing or Kiewit - we the taxpayers have spent $3.1 billion so far to build the border wall).