On my most recent trip to the border, I was anxious to get some first-hand knowledge of what the press has referred to as the “Trump Effect.” According to the “Trump Effect,” the president’s frequently-stated intention to build a wall across America’s southern border has deterred many from trying to enter the country illegally.
The numbers are there. According to the Department of Homeland Security, apprehensions at the border have declined 72 percent from December, 2016, to March, 2017. Is that the “Trump Effect?” No one knows for sure, but the Border Patrol agents and local activists I talked to in Texas and Arizona on my March/April trip this year confirmed the sharp reduction in illegal border crossings (source: “Southwest Border Migration,” U.S. Border Patrol Apprehensions FY2017 YTD, Oct. 1-April 30, dhs.gov).
I was originally scheduled for a week-long mission in the desert with members of Arizona Border Recon, but that event was cancelled, so I did some roaming across the desert, and one of my stops was at the port of entry in Naco, Arizona, 100 miles southeast of Tucson. I first went there in April 2005 as a member of the original Minuteman Project. At the time, there was only a five-strand barbed wire fence separating the United States from Mexico at our posting location. It has been replaced with a layer of mesh sheeting about 10 feet high. This was not much of a deterrent, however, as it was apparently easy enough to punch through, requiring the installation of cement filled, 6-by-6-inch posts as backup reinforcement. The numbers of illegal entrants may be down, but not the determination to come across.
That is a problem the nation has to solve. The border must be secured. Not securing the border means there is a continual flow of illegal aliens into this country. Some of those who are apprehended are given court dates and never show up; the ones who do are clogging the courts. The ones that are not apprehended take jobs “under the table” or with false identification, claim welfare and other benefits, and are a significant contributor to the nation’s runaway population growth. The flow must be stopped.
President Trump, in his executive order “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements,” defines “Operational control” as “the prevention of all unlawful entries into the United States (whitehouse.gov, Jan. 25, 2017).”
A tall order, and it will take more than the 13-foot high fences, such as that seen near Naco’s Port of Entry.
It is truly baffling and disheartening to have so many resources — helicopters, airplanes, drones, quads, Border Patrol agents in trucks, check points, observation towers, sensors, “virtual” fences, etc. — and yet the border is not secure. Those assets could be used more effectively, as discussed in a recent report by the Center for Immigration Studies, in which the authors suggest such things as “reducing the ratio of supervisors (the Border Patrol is 4:1 and most agencies are 10:1),” and “encouraging cooperation among all law enforcement agencies (“Is Border Security a Matter of More Manpower or Better Management?” — Center for Immigration Studies, April 27, 2017).”
Another place I stopped while “roaming” was Montezuma Pass in the Coronado National Memorial, south of Fort Huachuca, off Arizona Highway 92. I was surprised to see what must be the latest in technology: observation trucks with telescopic and radar capability. The Border Patrol agent operating the device gave me a demonstration of its capabilities and, once again, as I was driving back down a very steep, winding dirt road, I was wondering why every illegal entrant isn’t being stopped — and the drugs that the cartels are sending into this country, and into Maine communities.
How could it be done?
The U.S. Congress, including all of Maine’s Congressional delegation, has to support the president’s requests for the additional funding to improve border security. New approaches could be tried, such as applying more diplomatic and economic pressure on Mexico to deter its citizens from invading the U.S., plus giving more support to the border states and, in particular, to the sheriffs of the border counties, who are this nation’s first line of defense.
Robert Casimiro is a former executive director of the Massachusetts Citizens for Immigration Reform. He first went to the southern border with the initiation of the Minuteman Project in 2005 and recently returned from his ninth trip to the border. He lives in Bridgton.