May 8, 2014
by Jesse Degollado
Funded by the Secure Fence Act of 2006, plans to extend the border fence, part of immigration reform, remain in Congressional limbo.
Critics of the fence in south Texas question spending more taxpayer dollars on a barrier that they said has had little effect.
“A border fence is a 14th century solution to a 21st century problem," said Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Dist. 28).
Cuellar, who serves on the Homeland Security Appropriations subcommittee, said he supports “smart border security,” using technology.
“The wall here was $12 million a mile,” said Scott Nicol, one of its early opponents and founder of NoBorderWall.com. “It can be completely defeated by a couple of dollars worth of scrap wood."
He also said the fence has done little to slow, much less stop, the current surge of Central Americans into the Rio Grande Valley.
“The walls are up and apprehensions are rising again, so I don’t see the wall doing a lot,” Nicol said.
William Alber, a retired General Motors worker from Michigan and a full-time winter Texan, said he agrees.
Alber said he watched the fence going up from his front yard at a mobile home park near McAllen.
“The wall didn’t do any good. They just come over the top of the wall,” Alber said.
He said they also often run across his driveway, but he’s never been threatened.
“It’s elderly ladies. It’s girls. I’ve seen little kids, 7, 8 years old running with them,” Alber said. “There’s no doubt in my mind they’re desperate.”
Alber said if Border Patrol is not there watching, many others simply go around the fence where it abruptly ends.
Daniel Tirado, a spokesman for U.S. Border Patrol, said the 54 miles of fencing in the Rio Grande Valley was strategically placed to give its 5,000-plus agents the tactical advantage.
Tirado said the border fence helps shift illegal activity to less populated areas, “decreasing the smuggler’s ability to exploit easily accessible routes through communities, increasing the possibility of apprehension.”
However, those living between the fence and the Rio Grande have said they’re in a no-man’s land used by smugglers.
Tirado said that is why agents often patrol those areas, assisted by other means of detection such as cameras and sensors.
He said Border Patrol relies on a combination of technology, infrastructure and personnel to secure the south Texas border.