July 19, 2013
by Kurt Prendergrast
Concertina wire could be installed on the border fence to the east and west of downtown Nogales, much to the chagrin of the city council.
The wire, made of razor-sharp blades attached to coiled metal strands, was installed on the fence separating San Diego and Tijuana five years ago and the Border Patrol is considering a similar action in Nogales.
However, the plan is already meeting local opposition, with the Nogales City Council preparing a formal statement of protest.
The issue was brought up at Wednesday’s regular council meeting by Nogales Mayor Arturo Garino in response to a conversation he had with Leslie Lawson, patrol agent in charge of Border Patrol’s Nogales Station, who let him know about the proposed plan to install razor wire on the fence near Short Street on the east side of Nogales and near Hereford Drive on the west side.
The Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector “is considering a proposed deployment of concertina wire in the Nogales area,” spokesman Brent Cagen wrote in an email response to questions from the NI. The proposal is still under review, he wrote, adding “specifics concerning this proposal are unavailable at this time.”
During his meeting with Lawson, Garino said, she told him that rather than place the wire on top of the fence, the wire would be installed about 10 feet above the ground on the U.S. side of the fence.
Lawson told Garino that the wire would act as a deterrent to prevent people from jumping the fence, he said.
“There’s been a lot of injuries – broken ankles, hips, and different injuries – from people trying to jump,” he said, noting that the Border Patrol’s concern about injuries was “understandable.”
However, Garino said, he has “concerns” about the dangers of installing razor wire on the fence.
“If somebody at night was to jump the fence, not knowing that on the other side of the fence, 10-feet high, waiting for him is the razor wire. I don’t know what conditions we would find that person there,” he said. “Is it better for that person to break an ankle or is it better for that person to be tangled in that wire?”
Garino found support for his concerns among the other council members.
“It kind of gives me an image of Hitler coming back,” said Councilman John Doyle. “I think that it’s a little too strong. If somebody gets tangled up there, their eyes go or their legs get cut.”
Councilman Cesar Parada proposed that the council pass a resolution in opposition to the plan, which it could send to members of Congress. City Manager Shane Dille proposed a news conference to protest the plan.
After the discussion, Garino directed staff to draw up a resolution along the lines suggested by Parada.
On the razor’s edge
In 2010, then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords requested funding from the House Subcommittee on Homeland Security for a border barrier in Nogales that would “incorporate double-wall fencing, concertina wire... and vehicle ditches.”
That request was pulled back after the NI called attention to the plan, and when the new fence was constructed in 2011, it was a single-layer, bollard-style fence without concertina wire.
However, razor wire was installed on the border fence that separates San Diego and Tijuana five years ago, according to a May 17, 2008 report in the Los Angeles. Times. In late April, news outlets reported that the San Diego Fire Department had to extricate a man who found himself entangled in the wire while trying to illegally cross the border.
The cost to the Nogales Fire Department for extricating illegal border-crossers entangled in the wire was a point of concern for the council on Wednesday.
Parada asked staff whether the city could hold the Border Patrol responsible for “picking up the tab” on healthcare costs for people caught in the wire.
City Attorney Jose Machado said that department heads could instruct their personnel to take care of the injured person without taking the person into custody, which would make the city responsible for the costs. He noted that the federal government is responsible for injuries sustained within 60 feet of the U.S.-Mexico border.