Fencing Would Assist Border Agents

Posted: Jul 19, 2007 12:02 AM
Fencing Would Assist Border Agents

While Department of Homeland Security is working toward erecting a 370-mile fence along the southern border by 2008, there has been an increase in assaults made on U.S. Border Patrol Agents by illegal aliens.

In the four day span between July 8 and July 12, 11 assaults were committed against Border Patrol Agents, including two shootings and one “vehicular assault.”

Between February 1, 2005 and June 30, 2007, Border Patrol Agents reported 1,982 assault incidents. Border Patrol Agents responded to these assaults with deadly force on 116 occasions. On those 116 occasions, 144 agents fired a weapon.

U.S. Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar was on Capitol Hill Tuesday to testify to the Senate Judiciary Committee about the sentencing of former agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean. Both of them were sentenced to jail for more than a decade after incorrectly reporting they fired a firearm at and struck an illegal alien who was smuggling drugs from Mexico.

Of the uptick in attacks made against agents, Aguilar said, “I attribute this increase in violence to the fact that the Border Patrol achievements in gaining greater and expanded control of our border had resulted in greater reluctance of entrenched criminal organizations to give up areas in which they have historically operated—in some cases with impunity due to lack of enforcement presence or reluctance to give up areas where they have reestablished themselves in reaction to increased urban enforcement efforts.”

Border Agents arrested more than 1.1 million illegal aliens and seized more than 1.3 million pounds of narcotics in the last year.

U.S. Custom and Border Enforcement Spokesman Michael Friel said in a phone interview that border “fencing gives agents more of an upper hand.”

“It slows down illegal activity. It’s an impediment, it’s an obstacle,” he said. Friel also said it was important to have the “right number of agents and proper technology,” in addition to a fence.

The Secure Fence Act signed by President Bush in October 2006 authorized the construction of a 700-mile fence along the Mexican border and mandated that 370 miles be built by the end of fiscal year 2008. Congress then appropriated $1.5 billion in the fiscal 2006 and 2007 budget for fencing, lighting and vehicle barriers—enough to begin construction, but not enough to pay for the complete fence.

To date, 80 miles of the fence has been constructed along the border. Friel said DHS was “on track” to meet their goal to increase the fence by 145 miles by the end of fiscal year 2007, as well as constructing an additional 200 cumulative miles of vehicle barriers. He added that it was critical to appropriate more money later this year to proceed.

The White House is expected to request an additional $1 billion for fencing, lighting and vehicle barriers in fiscal year 2008.

Caroline Espinosa, spokeswoman for NumbersUSA, said she wished the fence was being built faster, but said it “showed progress in a sense that just a few years ago people laughed at the idea of building a fence and now it’s a priority in terms of securing our border.” She said the government must be sure to meet their deadlines for fence construction and that Congress should continue appropriating money to pay for the fencing.

She also stressed the importance of upping interior enforcement, through measures like worker verification.