The extra fences sought by agents in Texas and California would be the first major fencing addition to the nearly 2,000-mile-long southern border in five years
The Arizona-Mexico border fence is seen near Naco, Arizona, March 29, 2013. In the latest bid to militarize the U.S. border with Mexico, Federal agents are asking for 23 more miles of fences, better radios and aerial drones to tighten the nearly 2,000-mile-long southern frontier, according to an internal government study that Reuters been briefed on by officials and seen outlined in emails. REUTERS/Samantha Sais/File photo, photo: Reuters/Samantha Sais, File
28 of April 2016 10:09:57
WASHINGTON — Federal agents who patrol the U.S. border with Mexico want 23 more miles (37 km) of fences, better radios and more aerial drones to tighten the southern frontier, according to an unpublished U.S. government study that influences budget requests.[caption id="attachment_14919" align="alignright" width="300"] A Border Patrol camera tower aimed at Mexico is seen near Laredo, Texas May 1, 2006. Photo: Reuters/Rick Wilking, File[/caption]The modest scope of the requirements, details of which were contained in internal emails and described by Border Patrol officials in interviews, contrasts sharply with calls by Republican presidential candidates for more drastic measures to secure the border. Front runner Donald Trump and rival Ted Cruz have both pledged to build a border wall, a project that could cost several billion dollars.The extra fences sought by agents in Texas and California would be the first major fencing addition to the nearly 2,000-mile-long southern border in five years. They would cost about $92 million based on the costs of previous fences, though experts say that cost has risen.Border Patrol has not asked its parent agency, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), to request funding for any new fences so far.Border Patrol Chief Ronald Vitiello said that he is aware that some of his agents require "handfuls" of miles of additional fencing, though he declined to comment on the number of additional miles required.The 653 miles of fencing currently along the southwest border is a mix of wall-like fences and more basic vehicle barriers. About half of it was built for $1.2 billion in the four years after 2007, when Congress gave the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) a mandate to fence the most vulnerable sections of the 1,954-mile border.Building those fences required the department to waive 36 environmental and tribal sovereignty laws, including the Safe Drinking Water Act and the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, and mired the government in costly litigation with property owners.The CBP has for the past three years used the internal study to gauge border agents' most urgent needs and inform Border Patrol funding requests, though the agents' specific requirements are not spelled out in budget documents.The study also uses a border visualization and threat simulator built by Johns Hopkins University researchers who have run similar programs for the U.S. military, according to Vitiello.The new fencing that agents require is for three sectors of the border, and would mainly consist of metal or concrete bollards clustered closely enough to prevent people from squeezing through, according to a March email between Border Patrol officials.Apprehensions of people trying to cross illegally into the United States over its southwest border have mostly declined since the 1980s and 1990s, and they hit a nearly four-decade low in 2011. After a small rise, they dipped to near 2011 levels again last year.Agents have also identified more reliable radios, handheld surveillance drones and all-terrain vehicles as resources they need urgently to close border security gaps, Vitiello said.