Past Features

December 27, 2017

L.A. Times: Looking for border
problems that can't be solved?

Fence atop levee near Presidio, Texas
Glenn Spencer -- December 26, 2017
Could Texas' Big Bend be the border's weakest link? Smuggling of drugs and immigrants is on the rise
    In the late 1990s, border traffic moved from Southern California to remote desert stretches of Arizona; by 2013, it moved east again to Texas' Rio Grande Valley, the epicenter of migration and enforcement ever since. Now, one of the things driving the Trump administration's push for millions of dollars in new border security measures is a troubling new reality: New smuggling routes are opening up, and some of them are even further west, in Texas' Big Bend region.
    The river here, about 60 miles east of El Paso, is just a few yards wide, one of the reasons Border Patrol agents in Big Bend have seen worrying increases in smuggling, attacks on agents and immigrant deaths.
    “There's hundreds of these crossings just in our area of operation,” Smith said. “The drug cartels, they own this part of the land. We have conceded large swaths of the border. There are areas where there are not agents for days.”
    The vast Big Bend, he said, is “the absolute weakest link on the southern border.” [...]
    President Trump has promised to add 5,000 Border Patrol agents, potentially doubling Big Bend staffing, but with high turnover, agents said that they would still be spread thin.
    With such a small staff, agents usually patrol alone, with hand-me-down technology from other areas, including radios so spotty agents have erected makeshift cell towers in the brush to boost reception. Sometimes they just yell.
    They don't have observation towers along the border as in the Rio Grande Valley, and their single aerostat blimp hovering overhead, unlike those used in the Valley, is not equipped with infrared technology, Smith said.
    “You know what it helps?” Smith said. “Migrants. They use it as a guide: Go that direction.”
    The only time they received drones, agents complained, was when the devices were sent west from southeast Texas for safekeeping before Hurricane Harvey hit in August.

Glenn Spencer -- December 27, 2017     
Presidio, Texas
  A careful look at the border near Big Bend suggests some solutions to the border problem. Take Presidio, Texas, for example.
    As shown in its 2009 BEEF survey, there is a fence at the Port of Entry at Presidio, but it is small and easily crossed or circumvented.
    As shown in Google Earth, there is a levee that runs many miles north and south of the Presidio Port of Entry upon which a proper fence --- or wall --- could be built. ]
    Faced with a real barrier, prospective border crossers would be cut off from accessing U.S. Highway 67 --- the only real north-south route for many miles. The overland walk to the next town --- Marfa, Texas --- is about 50 miles.
    There are solutions to the Big Bend problem, including a virtual fence, but unlike the Los Angeles Times, one must want to find them.