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A look at border security, fencing as Trump announces wall


    A truck drives near the Mexico-US border fence, on the Mexican side, separating the towns of Anapra, Mexico and Sunland Park, New Mexico. U.S. President Donald Trump will direct the Homeland Security Department to start building a wall at the Mexican border.

HOUSTON >> President Donald Trump announced his long-awaited plan Wednesday to build a wall on the 1,954-mile U.S. border with Mexico, calling for its “immediate construction” to stop illegal immigration, drug and human trafficking and acts of terrorism.

He is not the first president to embark on an aggressive buildup on the border.

Here’s a look at what is already there:


One-third of the U.S.-Mexico border, or 653 miles, is already studded with fence in a potpourri of styles, from menacing barriers to those that can be easily hopped. The barriers arose from the Secure Fence Act passed in the last year of the George W. Bush administration.

In California, the fence climbs out of the Pacific. Its meanest stretch, three layers thick, separates San Diego from Tijuana. Half those 14 miles are topped by razor wire. In dunes to the east, a “floating fence” of 16-foot steel tubes can be raised or lowered as sands shift.

Almost all of Arizona’s border is fenced, although the deterrence effect for human-and drug smugglers is constantly questioned. Cities such as Yuma and Nogales have high fencing but stretches of the remote desert have things like posts, wire-mesh and livestock fencing that can halt vehicles but people can hop.

Nearly all Texas’ 1,250-mile border is fence-free, the winding Rio Grande the only barrier. The state has just 110 miles of fences and fortified concrete levees.

Mountains, rivers and other natural barriers are expensive to build on and have been largely left alone. One stretch in Texas’ Hidalgo County along the Rio Grande cost $10 million a mile.


Politicians along the border, even GOP lawmakers in Washington, have endorsed surveillance technology as offering more security for the buck than fence or wall. The Border Patrol is expanding the use of eye-in the-sky tethered dirigibles that scan the horizon as they float on cables and of camera-studded towers. Its high-flying Predator drones have logged more than 3,000 hours a year since 2011.

Neither technology nor maintenance of existing fence comes cheap. The government spent $450 million last fiscal year on “Border Security Fencing, Infrastructure, and Technology.”

And a major Boeing-led project in Arizona called the “SBINet,” whose network was supposed to marshal surveillance monitoring, proved a boondoggle, costing taxpayers $1 billion before it was canceled in 2010.


Not a single person involved in a terrorist act in the United States is known to have illegally entered the country from Mexico along the southwest border. Apprehensions of undocumented immigrants, meanwhile, are far down from a peak of 1.6 million in 2000 to 408,870 in the year ending Sept. 30, with net immigration by Mexicans at zero.

More Central Americans were apprehended illegally crossing the border than Mexicans last year. The Central Americans are fleeing a humanitarian crisis — the world’s highest murder rates and abject poverty. Most surrender at the border and seek asylum. The Border Patrol has bulked up, too, from about 9,500 agents in 2004 to some 17,500 today.

The locals, meanwhile, mostly don’t want a wall. A May poll in U.S. southwest border cities found 72 percent against the idea. The Cronkite News-Univision-Dallas Morning News poll had a 2.6 percent error margin


Most drugs entering the United States sneak through legal ports of entry — not through fence-less wilds. They hide in concealed compartments of passenger vehicles or commingled with legitimate goods in tractor-trailers, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says.

The U.S. Border Patrol says it seized 1.3 million pounds of marijuana, most of it in Arizona, and 4,180 pounds of cocaine, most split between the San Diego sector and Texas’ Rio Grande valley, in the most recent fiscal year.

Smugglers have been tunneling under fences for years, primarily in California and Arizona where marijuana is the payload. Authorities also occasionally find ladders constructed a foot higher than existing fence as creative smugglers find new ways in — and under.

And since 1990, the DEA says, 225 border tunnels have been discovered. Off-road vehicles and backpackers are also used, but that tends to require scouts. Ultralight aircraft and drones have also made cross-border airdrops, mostly of marijuana.

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  • Attaboy Trump, let’s continue to make it more and more difficult to smuggle anything over or under the border. The excuse is always the same, too difficult, too expensive, yada yada yada. Their answer is to do absolutely nothing and let insanity continue. I guess illegal aliens and illegal drugs come at no cost to our country? Ignore the problems and they will go away and never have an effect on most of us?

    • This wall is useless. Beef up high-tech sensors and train the border guards better. WE already have a record number of border guards and more are leaving now (immigrants) than coming as Mexico’s economy has approved.

    • The wall I am very concerned about is the dense wall of Secrecy and Opaqueness around Trump, the White House, his aides, his cabinet. Trump will not release and reveal his tax returns from years past so the world will not be able to see his conflicts of interest. Trump himself had large number of stocks in oil and gas companies, which is a major reason is supporting the oil and gas industries and gutting the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department. Many of his nominees and members of his cabinet have ethics problems and are evasive or not disclosing their involvement in hedge funds, derivatives, off shore businesses, tax havens and the sources of their great wealth. The wall of secrecy around the White House is aimed at keeping out the prying eyes of journalists, the press and the media, so Trump and his Administration cannot be held accountable to anyone.

      • If only a select few benefit by any conflict of interest provided by any politician we should well be concerned. If it is a collaboration to benefit the nation I am all for it. Every POS will create a cabinet inline with his own policies. Why would you select anyone that is not with the program? Ige? Caldwell? No different. Presidents of large corporations? No different. Owner of a mom and pop store? No different.

    • Have the Syrians and Central Americans sent back and have them fight for the Land. Stop these sissy’s with tails between their legs coming into America! We are NOT their mother goose

  • A wall really won`t make a diff. they`ll always find a way around/under/over it. If Trump really wants a wall let him pay for it with his own $$ NOT USA tax $$ or Mexico`s.

    • Thanks “youngblood”. If someone is determined to get into the US, that’s exactly what they’ll do. The “coyotes” will just charge a little extra for each trip. Sorry to say we are throwing billions down the drain. As pointed out in the article, there are better ways to solve the problem.

      • Mr Mil, “There are better ways to solve the problem”. Then why have they not been applied by the previous administration? Yada, yada, yada, or as we say in Hawaii waha.

      • Get real, the US has to start somewhere! Build the walls and then ENFORCE our immigration laws already in the books! Uphold those laws to the fullest! Don’t you get it it’s been reported the US already has 2 million criminal aliens, One is too much!

    • Yes, Youngblood, do nothing, let them in and then spend billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money to house, feed and educate them, and while we are at it, provide them health care at taxpayers’ expense. It makes America a great country for the illegals but not for Americans.

  • like many who live in houses, my yard is fenced and doors have locks to control those who enter the yard and home. i also control who remains in the house and when they leave.

    i would venture to say that most apartment dwellers also have locks on their doors to control those who enter their homes, how long they stay and when they leave.

    similarly, a nation is entitled to protect its borders as it pleases to control those who enter, how long visitors stay and when they leave. further, a nation is entitled to immediately deport those discovered to have penetrated its borders illegally.

  • Let’s see. Freeze on federal hires. Check. Get more Border Patrol. Unfreeze
    Check. Build HUGE wall. Check. Use private contractors for billions. Check. Call buddy contractors. Get rid of procurement laws. Check. BILL U.S.TAX PAYER, HUGE CHECK.

  • Has FEMA been “stood up” to help the people of Georgia yet or is Trump too busy arguing with the media and planning for a wall that taxpayers will pay for? Yeah, thats what I thought.

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