Construction on Mexican border (Courtesy American Border Patrol)
The Department of Homeland Security has built fewer than 200 miles of fence along the U.S. border with Mexico, not the 526 miles claimed by DHS and the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, according to Glenn Spencer, founder of the watchdog group American Border Patrol.
Spencer claims DHS is including in its 526 miles of fence – supposedly constructed according to the mandates of the Secure Fence Act – some 248 miles of “vehicle fence” that “isn’t a fence at all and doesn’t even stop vehicles.”
“Deducting useless vehicle barriers and very old 10-foot fencing, not constructed under the Secure Border Initiative, from the 526-mile claim, we are left with about 200 miles that the Department of Homeland Security/Customs and Border Protection Secure Border Initiative actually constructed in accordance with the congressional mandate originally set forth in the Secure Fence Act of 2006,” he said.
Customs and Border Patrol spokesman Lloyd Easterling disagrees.
“With the border fence, it isn’t a question of ‘one size fits all,’” Easterling told WND. “Double-layer fencing has been very effective, but equally effective is the vehicle and pedestrian fencing that we have installed in the more remote areas.”
The Secure Fence Act of 2006, enacted Oct. 26, 2006, calls for 700 miles of double-reinforced fence to be built along the southern border with Mexico, from California to Texas.
WND reported that former Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., the original sponsor of the Secure Fence Act of 2006, opposed in January 2008 an amendment inserted by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, into the Fiscal Year 2008 DHS funding bill that left building any fence at all to the discretion of DHS, after consultation with local residents along the border.
Spencer has called for Congress to pass legislation reenacting the Secure Fence Act of 2006.
“The law should be modified to increase fence miles to 1,000 from 700 and include a provision for an independent agency to monitor the progress of the fence and the degree to which border security has been achieved,” he told WND.
Easterling conceded that people can cut through the vehicular and pedestrian fences being constructed by DHS.
“Still, you’ve got to look hard at some of these remote areas,” he argued. “We have a better chance of catching people in some parts of the desert. In some places, depending on the destination they choose, it’s anywhere from 60 to 100 miles to walk out of that desert.”
“Besides, with CBP air patrols and the Border Patrol agents along the border, we have vehicle fence that is effective,” he stressed.
“Do people driving vehicles try to compromise the vehicle fences out there? Absolutely, they do. They try to cut, go over, go under – whatever they can do,” he said. “But the fact is that even the vehicle fences we have constructed around Yuma have cut what was more than 2,700 drive-throughs in 2005, to today where drive-throughs are almost non-existent.”
Spencer agrees that the fencing around Yuma, Ariz., is among the best on the border.
At the Jan. 15 press conference, Spencer presented evidence that double-layer fencing, placed along the border in places including Yuma can reduce apprehensions of illegal aliens by more than 97 percent.
Spencer also claims building a double-layer fence along the border would do much to stop drug-smuggling.
“The surge in the drug war in Mexico was precipitated by the construction of the border fencing and borders,” he said, arguing that the inability to get drugs into the U.S. caused in-fighting among the Mexican drug cartels.
“There is a strong correlations between the miles of fencing installed between 2005 and 2009 and 1) drug-related deaths in Mexico; 2) eradication of cannabis plants north of the border; and 3) increases in the price of cocaine,” he said. “We can stop drug smuggling if we want to.”
Easterling told WND that DHS, as of this month, has constructed 601 miles of new fence, including vehicle and pedestrian fences, since the passage of the Secure Fence Act of 2006.
The DHS goal under the legislation is to build 670 miles of new fence.
Easterling conceded that two-thirds of the 1,993-mile U.S. border with Mexico has no fence whatsoever.
He told WND that resource limitations were a factor in determining how best to use available funds.
He also argued that some areas along the border do not necessarily require a fence, largely because natural barriers make the terrain difficult to pass.
“The type of fence we build depends on the area,” he said. “In urban areas, we may place double-layer fences. In other areas we place vehicle fences or even pedestrian fences. But in remote areas, we also take into consideration that natural terrain, such as mountain ranges, may form natural barriers that prevent people from crossing into the United States easily.
“With the new Obama administration now in place, our goal is to finish the 670 miles and then to step back and evaluate what that fencing is doing for us,” he said. “Then, of course, we’ll make some new decisions from there, with the new administration. But so far, the 670 miles of completed fence remains our goal.”
Spencer was concerned his press conference Jan. 15 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., received no mainstream media coverage despite press releases and phone calls to reporters.
“We rented the expensive Holeman Lounge at the Press Club and had a 60″ plasma TV to show videos of the December 10 and January 6 aerial surveillance missions along the border, but no one came,” Spencer told WND. “Not one member of the mainstream press or media showed up, not even the Washington Post, despite calls to reporters there who had previously covered us.”
In an article entitled “Anatomy of a Blackout”, published on his group’s website, Spencer claims the story was blacked out because it was “probably too important to be told to the public.”
Spencer agreed the press conference was held at a time prior to the Obama inauguration when the mainstream media attention was largely consumed with favorable coverage anticipating the in-coming administration.
In the presidential campaign of 2008, neither Obama nor Republican candidate John McCain made border security a major issue.
Obama has not yet specified the extent to which his administration plans to advance the Security and Prosperity of North America agenda articulated by President Bush with Mexico’s then-President Vicente Fox and Canada’s then-Prime Minister Paul Martin in 2005.