‘A wall cannot be defeated the way a fence can be defeated’
National Border Patrol Council head defends Trump plan
Building more border walls would help funnel drug smugglers over to where agents can catch or stop them, the chief of the Border Patrol agents’ labor union testified to Congress on Thursday, bolstering the case for President Trump’s call for a barrier on the U.S.-Mexico divide.
Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, also said a wall is better than fencing because it’s too easy to breach the fence with torches, cutting holes that smugglers can pass their loads through.
“I have a brother who’s also a Border Patrol agent, who spent two years and all he did every day is patch holes in a fence,” Mr. Judd recounted in testimony to the House Oversight Committee. “A wall cannot be defeated the way a fence can be defeated.”
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is aware of the problem. In its request for prototype walls, it asked for models that will be able to withstand breach attempts for up to four hours.
Mr. Judd’s testimony came as debate over the wall heats up on Capitol Hill. While the president said he wouldn’t insist on funding in the spending bill Congress is rushing to pass right now, he will want money by the end of the year to begin construction.
Democrats and some Republicans — particularly those from border states — have said Mr. Trump hasn’t justified the wall, and wondered whether more barriers are needed given that illegal crossings are already down dramatically just months into the Trump presidency.
Experts said there’s no need for a wall across the border, as Mr. Trump had at one point posited, but some of the specialists said a bit of construction would absolutely help control the flow of illegal contraband across the border.
Seth M.M. Stodder, a former senior Homeland Security official, sounded a dissenting note, saying that walls are the wrong solution. He said drug smugglers will take to tunnels or fly hard drugs over the wall, and said building the wall could ruin cooperation with Mexico on anti-terrorism and anti-gang cases.
“A wall will not help us address any of the most pressing challenges we face at the border — and likely will make addressing them more difficult,” he said.
Mr. Judd, though, said a wall will help funnel drug smugglers, and will also cut down on the cartels’ ability to send illegal immigrants across the border as a distraction. He said smugglers have found they can draw agents’ attention to one part of the border by pushing migrants through there, then carrying or launching a load of heroin across the border elsewhere.
Agnes Gibboney, whose son was killed by an illegal immigrant, said a wall would help ease her mind.
“I would go and work on the wall myself,” said the woman, who is in her 60s and who appeared before Congress on the 15th anniversary of her son’s slaying. An illegal immigrant was convicted of manslaughter in the case.
She bristled at those who have mocked or joked about the wall, saying they haven’t had the same experience she does.
“I don’t see what’s funny about it, because they have not been affected by it personally,” she said.
Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, California Democrat, countered that paying for the wall could siphon money from elsewhere in the budget such as the National Institutes of Health. He said there are “equally compelling parent stories about people losing their lives because we haven’t invested there.”
Mr. Judd, whose frequent testimony to Congress often contains shocking details about problems on the border, said lax enforcement policies are actually helping gangs to recruit.
He said some illegal immigrants who are caught try to claim asylum and, while detained, then use their time in custody to try to recruit other illegal immigrants into gangs.
“They’re actually recruiting, while they’re in our custody, they’re recruit other individuals to join their gangs,” Mr. Judd said.
Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council testified on Thursday in favor of creating a border wall. Mr. Judd argued that smugglers get through fenses.