Saturday, September 3, 2011

Higher wall, harder falls

Nogales International
September 2, 2011
by JB Miller

The imposing new border fence running through Nogales is proving to be a treacherous obstacle for undocumented border-crossers – several of whom have been injured in recent weeks while descending the U.S. side of the barrier.

The victims, who include two women and one man hurt during a 10-day span, won’t find much sympathy from the Border Patrol, however. The agency says it’s not responsible for people who tangle with the 23-to-30-foot security fence.

On Aug. 12, a woman identified only as “Asian” broke her leg after climbing the border fence near East Hudgins Street, according to a Nogales Police Department report.

NPD officers responded to the scene shortly before 9 p.m. and met with Border Patrol agents who were treating the woman, who could not be identified because she could not speak English, the report said. The agents reportedly took the woman to Carondelet Holy Cross Hospital for further evaluation.

Two days later, on the afternoon of Aug. 14, NPD officers encountered another injured fence-climber after responding to a reported burglary on East Street.

The homeowner had called the police after finding 38-year-old Maria Sanchez of Veracruz, Mexico in her house. When the officers arrived, Sanchez told them that she went into the home in search of help after hurting her leg while jumping from the fence.

The Border Patrol took custody of the woman, the NPD said.

Then on Aug. 22, Border Patrol agents from the Nogales Station said they rescued a 21-year-old illegal immigrant from Fujhou, China after he fell from the wall and sustained a compound fracture to his left leg.

Rescue personnel from the Nogales Fire Department responded and took the man to the hospital.

“(The fence) is so high,” NFD Chief Hector Robles said. “We’ve seen some compound fractures, open wounds, a loss of fingers, the knees are blown...”

In addition to the height of the fence, Robles cited adrenaline and miscalculations in determining the distance and angle of a fall as potential injury factors.

Begun in March and completed in late July, the $11.6-million, 2.8-mile fence ranges from 23 to 30 feet in height and is topped by a 5-foot high, south-facing metal sheet to discourage climbers. The landing mat fence that it replaced measured 10 feet tall, and was also easier to cut through and burrow under.

Asked about the recent injuries, Eric Cantu, spokesman for the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector, pointed to the new barrier’s principal purpose: providing better security for the United States.

“The intent of the design, structure and height of the fence is to make it more difficult to climb which gives us as an agency more time to identify, classify and respond to any threats. Which in turn makes us a nation safer, which everybody wants,” said

Colleen Angle, another Tucson Sector spokesperson, said did not know how undocumented immigrants are managing to climb the fence.

Human smugglers might be the ones who could better answer that question, she said.

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