Smuggling gangs in Mexico have been able to breach new sections of President Donald Trump’s border wall in recent months, according to a new report from The Washington Post.
Citing U.S. agents and officials with knowledge of the damage, the Post reported that smugglers have been using reciprocating saws to cut through the steel and concrete portions of the wall, creating openings wide enough for people and drugs to be smuggled through.
The agents told the Post the saws can cut through the bollards in a matter of minutes. Engineers told the newspaper that because of the height of the bollards, which are between 18 to 30 feet tall, it’s easier to push the steel out of the way to pass through the other side.
Trump said he hadn’t heard reports about cutting through the border wall, but, he added, “you can cut through anything.”
“We have a very powerful wall, but no matter how powerful, you can cut through anything, in all fairness,” the President told reporters at the White House.
“But we have a lot of people watching,” he continued. “Cutting is one thing, but it’s easily fixed. One of the reasons we did it the way we did it, it’s very easily fixed. You put the chunk back in. But we have a very powerful wall. But you can cut through any wall.”
Matthew Leas, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection, told CNN: “Any characteristic that the wall is not working is ridiculous. The wall is working.”
When a breach is detected, a welding crew is sent to fix the opening, the newspaper reported.
Smugglers also attempt to hide a breach in the barrier by returning the cut in the bollard to its original position or using a putty that looks like the hole has been fixed, so that they can keep using that opening, according to the Post.
But agents told the newspaper that despite fixing and welding the damaged bollards, smugglers still return to the same spot because the metal and the concrete at the bollards’ cores have already been weakened.
The Post reported that some of the damage has occurred in parts where electronic sensors that detect sawing vibrations have not yet been installed.
Smugglers also deploy makeshift ladders to climb up and over the barriers in the San Diego area, and then use hooks to hang rope ladders on the other side, according to the Post.
A senior administration official told the Post that the number of breaches amounts to “a few instances,” but that the new fencing had “significantly increased security and deterrence” along the San Diego and El Centro sections of the border.
Trump’s signature campaign promise was building the wall on the U.S.-Mexico and having Mexico pay for it. On a visit to a site in San Diego in September, Trump touted the wall, saying it’s “virtually impenetrable.”
So far, U.S. taxpayers have been footing the bill for efforts to build new physical barriers at the southern border.
What’s happening at the U.S.-Mexico border in 5 charts
Border Patrol agents apprehended more migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border in fiscal 2019 than in any year since fiscal 2007, according to new federal data. The influx of migrants has strained border facilities and become a major policy focus for President Donald Trump’s administration.
Below is a closer look at the shifting dynamics at the southwestern border, based on the new numbers from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the federal agency tasked with patrolling the border.
Apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border more than doubled between fiscal 2018 and fiscal 2019 but remained below historical highs. There were 851,508 apprehensions in the 2019 fiscal year (October 2018-September 2019), a 115% increase from the previous fiscal year and the highest total in 12 years. Still, the total remained far below the 1,643,679 apprehensions recorded in 2000, the peak year. And apprehensions regularly exceeded 1 million per fiscal year during the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.
Non-Mexicans far outnumbered Mexicans in southwest border apprehensions in 2019There has been a major shift in who is being apprehended, with non-Mexicans now far outnumbering Mexicans. Non-Mexicans accounted for 80% of apprehensions in fiscal 2019, marking the fourth consecutive year in which they outnumbered Mexicans. In 2000 (the earliest year for which data is available), non-Mexicans accounted for just 2% of apprehensions while Mexicans accounted for 98%.
For the first time on record, Mexicans did not account for the largest single country of origin in fiscal 2019. There were more apprehensions of Guatemalans (264,168) and Hondurans (253,795) than Mexicans (166,458), while El Salvador was fourth on the list with 89,811 apprehensions.
The Northern Triangle nations – El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras – together accounted for 71% of all apprehensions in fiscal 2019. The 607,774 apprehensions from these three countries outnumbered the total from Mexico even though their combined population (32.6 million) is only a quarter of Mexico’s (129.2 million).
People traveling in families accounted for the majority of apprehensions in fiscal 2019, a big shift from the recent past. There were 473,682 apprehensions of “family units” (defined as the number of individuals traveling in a family), representing 56% of apprehensions overall and more than four times the next-highest annual total of family member apprehensions on record (107,212 in fiscal 2018). Apprehensions of unaccompanied children ages 17 and younger also reached their highest level on record (76,020 in fiscal 2019, compared with a previous high of 68,541 in fiscal 2014). In all other recent years, apprehensions of individual adults far outnumbered those of family members or unaccompanied children.
The changing profile of those being apprehended has strained the Border Patrol, which follows different legal protocols for detaining family members and single adults.
People apprehended by Border Patrol may be subject to expedited removal (except for unaccompanied children) but could also become eligible for asylum if officials determine they meet the definition of a refugee. Asylum applications have increased substantially in recent years, while the acceptance rates have remained constant.
Apprehensions rose in every border sector in fiscal 2019, especially in the El Paso sector. The El Paso region saw a 477% surge in migrant apprehensions in fiscal 2019 compared with fiscal 2018 (from 31,561 to 182,143). That was by far the largest percentage increase of any of the nine southwest Border Patrol sectors. In fiscal 2019, El Paso ranked second in apprehensions only to the Rio Grande sector, which saw an increase of 109% between fiscal 2018 and fiscal 2019 (from 162,262 apprehensions to 339,135).
Seasonal migration patterns have changed in recent years. Since 2000, border apprehensions have typically peaked in the spring – most often in March – before declining during the hot summer months, when migration journeys become more perilous. But the pattern has changed since 2013, with the annual peak occurring in months other than March. In 2019, May was the peak month, with 132,856 apprehensions. Apprehensions fell dramatically after May, declining to 40,507 by September, the final month of the fiscal year.
Source: pewresearch.org, fox5sandiego.com
The Mazatlan Post