Border Fence Called Impractical
Tuesday, October 3, 2006
Building a fence in an attempt to secure the U.S. border with Mexico is impractical and would simply lead illegal immigrants to cross elsewhere, according to former U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents and other experts.
And the Mexican government agreed in a diplomatic note sent yesterday to the U.S. government, warning that the fence would damage relations between the two countries.
The Senate voted Friday to build about 700 miles of double-layered fence with access roads, lighting, cameras and sensors, to try to block five heavily used crossing points along the 2,000-mile border.
The plan, which awaits President Bush's signature, includes a sweep of fencing along most of the Arizona border, where about half of the almost 1.2 million people arrested crossing from Mexico last year were caught.
The fence would also stretch through parts of California, New Mexico and Texas.
Former U.S. customs agents who have hunted drug traffickers in the mountains and deserts near the Arizona border said the new barrier would be defeated by the rugged terrain.
"You can't build a wall across the mountains of southern Arizona, as much of the terrain is inaccessible even on foot," veteran agent Lee Morgan said as he stood along the proposed route of the fence, east of Douglas.
The barrier would have to traverse the rugged Huachuca Mountains and other craggy ranges west of Nogales, Ariz., which are marked by bluffs and ravines that make them inaccessible to vehicle traffic, Morgan noted.
Another former customs special agent said the fencing would also struggle to bridge hundreds of creek beds spanning the Arizona-Sonora border, which are prone to flash floods from May to October.
Republican backers of the proposal contend it is necessary to prevent entry to the United States by illegal immigrants and extremists, and to prevent smuggling of weapons and drugs.
Mexican President Vicente Fox, who leaves office Dec. 1, has called the barrier "shameful" and compared it to the Berlin Wall. His spokesman yesterday urged Bush to veto the bill.
"This decision hurts bilateral relations, goes against the spirit of cooperation needed to guarantee security on the common border, creates a climate of tension in border communities," Ruben Aguilar told reporters.