Bor­der agents: Steel fence not im­pen­e­tra­ble, but still needed for se­cu­rity

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY STEPHEN DINAN

The steel bol­lard bor­der fence Pres­i­dent Trump is now talk­ing about build­ing is not im­pen­e­tra­ble, but it is the best de­sign avail­able and will slow down im­mi­grants who are try­ing to cross the bor­der il­le­gally, bor­der agents say.

It gives agents vis­i­bil­ity into Mex­ico, mean­ing they have more of a chance of chas­ing off peo­ple at­tempt­ing to cut through the fence. And it was tougher to breach than other fenc­ing, ac­cord­ing to Chris Judd, who was part of the Bor­der Pa­trol’s last big round of fence-build­ing a decade ago.

“In my opin­ion, hands-down, the best,” he told The Wash­ing­ton Times.

Ques­tions about fenc­ing ef­fi­cacy rose Thurs­day after NBC re­ported that a steel wall pro­to­type built in 2017 as part of Mr. Trump’s wall-de­sign con­test were breached by saw dur­ing test­ing.

All eight pro­to­types, in­clud­ing four con­crete de­signs Mr. Trump was par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested in, were put through tests that in­cluded try­ing to punch holes in them and to scale them. The goal was to have it take a min­i­mum of 30 min­utes — and at best, four hours — to cut a 12-inch hole.

The pro­to­types were also eval­u­ated for ease of con­struc­tion and aes­thet­ics.

A Gov­ern­ment Ac­count­abil­ity Of­fice re­port in Au­gust said none of the eight de­signs was field-ready, and they would all need mod­i­fi­ca­tions to be made op­er­a­tional.

Bor­der Pa­trol lead­ers say they’re us­ing the de­signs to learn lessons about fu­ture con­struc­tion but don’t have plans to put any of them into use.

Mr. Trump, asked about the breaches Thurs­day, first claimed the de­sign be­longed to the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion — though it was built as part of his pro­to­type tests.

He then said any­thing can be breached.

“There is noth­ing that can’t be pen­e­trated, but you fix it,” he said.

Fix­ing breaches was part of Mr. Judd’s job.

He said agents got to know what worked and what didn’t. Bad de­signs in­cluded what was known as “land­ing mat” fence, which re­pur­posed old sur­plus metal plates used by the mil­i­tary to cre­ate land­ing strips. The Bor­der Pa­trol stood the plates on end as fenc­ing.

They were not see-through, cre­at­ing a new dan­ger to agents from am­bush on the Mex­i­can side, and they were also easy to cut through.

“A mat­ter of 10 min­utes, max,” Mr. Judd said.

He said wire-mesh fenc­ing, an­other op­tion that has been used on the bor­der, was see-through, but also easy to cut.

The bol­lard-style fenc­ing was far tougher to breach when it was built with con­crete fill­ings in­side steel cas­ings. And the bol­lards were spaced inches apart, giv­ing vis­i­bil­ity into Mex­ico.

Mr. Judd said fenc­ing doesn’t stop ev­ery­one, but it does fun­nel peo­ple, mak­ing the flow more pre­dictable and giv­ing agents a bet­ter chance to catch those who do try to cross.

“Any­body who has any thought in their mind, any con­cern over bor­der se­cu­rity, a fence is crit­i­cal for us to be able to prop­erly se­cure the bor­der,” Mr. Judd said. “The bar­rier’s huge. We can’t be ev­ery­where all of the time. It’s just sim­ply not pos­si­ble.”

Democrats who op­pose phys­i­cal bar­ri­ers say they would pre­fer sen­sors, drones and radar to spot mi­grants try­ing to cross the bor­der il­le­gally. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thurs­day called that a “tech­no­log­i­cal wall.”

Mr. Judd, though, told The Wash­ing­ton Times last week that agents need more than sen­sors and drones.

“Things like that are great but there’s no sub­sti­tute for agents on the bor­der, and that bar­rier is what al­lows us to be able to pa­trol those ar­eas and see where peo­ple may have crossed,” he said.

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