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Long stretch of NM International Border has no fencing; just vehicle barriers

Chris Ramirez
March 01, 2017 03:23 PM

Admittedly, taking on a reporting assignment about President Donald Trump’s border wall proposal is a tough one. It’s arguably one of the most politicized topics because Mr. Trump made it such a lynchpin of his campaign.  It’s difficult for any reporter to tackle an assignment about the border fence without being accused of being too left or too right. 

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In spite of the challenges, KOB's 4 Investigates set out to tackle the story. We want to be honest with our viewers on how we went about it.

We first went south to the New Mexico/Mexico border and looked at the wall with an aerial advantage. We wanted to see the infrastructure for ourselves. Once we landed, we drove to the border fence and looked at the differences in the structure up close. We noticed near ports of entry and populated areas, the fence is about 20 feet high and made of a thick iron mesh. But most of the boundary that separates New Mexico from Mexico is nothing more than a series of vehicles barriers. Without an iron mesh or any kind of fencing, going over, under and through the border is easy.

Knowing what exists and what the current infrastructure looks like, we met with a spokesperson for the U.S. Border Patrol in the El Paso Sector.  That sector includes all of New Mexico’s border and two Texas counties. 

NEW MEXICO’S SECRET WEAPON

To put in plainly, the geography of the land presents a great defense. The Chihuahua Desert that connects Mexico and New Mexico is rugged, harsh, inhospitable terrain.  The area close to the border is sparsely populated and there are few roads. 

We asked U.S. Border Patrol Agent George Gomez, “Do you think the vast, rural, open desert in itself is a deterrent for anybody trying to cross or bring in drugs?”

“There is nothing but vast open desert, so the draw is not really there because it’s a longer trek they have to go through,” Gomez said.  “It’s much more dangerous versus trekking through water in South Texas where one can easily conceal themselves in an urban environment.”

The border along Texas, Arizona and California are very different with communities of people living near the international boundary. There are more roads, more buildings and the land is much tamer in the other states. 

DESERT CROSSINGS VS. PORTS OF ENTRY

Millions of vehicles cross through international ports of entry each year. Many of the vehicles are 18-wheelers bringing in imported goods from Mexico. 

With a better understanding of New Mexico’s secret weapon, we asked, “Do you think more illegal human and drug crossings happen at ports of entry or in the open desert?”

“Based on conversations with other law enforcement agencies, the vast majority of attempted human smuggling or narcotic smuggling is going to be coming in through the port of entry, much more so that the vast open desert,” Gomez said. 

Data provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection confirms that. For example, in the fiscal year 2016, agents seized 157 pounds of cocaine from desert crossers. However, agents seized 524 pounds of cocaine hidden in vehicles at ports of entry in the El Paso Sector.

HOW IMPORTANT IS FORTIFYING THE EXISTING WALL?

We asked Gomez what he sees as the biggest obstacle or challenge to effectively complete the mission of securing the nation’s borders.

“We literally need to get new technology to replace aging technology,” Gomez said.  “And attrition. We are always trying to hire.  We are always looking for men and women to secure the nation’s borders.”

In terms of technology, what Gomez said his agents need are more cameras, night vision, sensors, satellite surveillance of the border and more people to operate it all.  The current fencing may not be much, but there aren’t many complaints about it. 

“What it make your job easier if the (border fence) was fortified in some better way?” we asked Gomez.

“What we currently have now is helping us tremendous,” he said.  “As long as we have a good grasp of technology, infrastructure, personnel and good intelligence, we can secure the nation’s border sufficiently.”    

Credits

Chris Ramirez

Copyright 2017 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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