SAN DIEGO—A San Diego Border Patrol union representative says morale among agents took a hit during the government shutdown. But they’re still calling on Congress to fund the wall.
San Diego’s National Border Patrol Council Vice President, Joshua Wilson, admits working without pay during the 35-day government shutdown was troubling for many San Diego border patrol agents. But they are standing behind President Donald Trump’s hardline push to fund border security.
“Agents want border security to be fully funded and we’re thankful the President is taking it seriously,” Wilson told The Epoch Times. “We’re calling upon Congress to do their job—fully fund border security and build a wall.”
He says the administration is listening to what agents, the real border security experts, need in the field—a physical barrier. A wall not only keeps agents safe but gives them enough time to identify and respond to illegal entries and other criminal activity along the border.
“It puts a barrier between us and those who want to harm us. Fencing, barricades, walls, however you wanna call them, they’re a necessary layer of border security. They are something that cannot be omitted.”
In San Diego, 46 miles of the 60-mile of border already has some sort of barrier.
The first wall was erected in 1991 when the United States had almost 1.5 million apprehensions of illegal immigrants across its southwest border, according to Border Patrol statistics—with more than 40 percent of those happening in San Diego.
Wilson, a border patrol agent of 13 years with over 1,000 immigration arrests under his belt, says the initial fence was put up because the border was a lawless zone of chaos.
“Before we had walls, we used to have vehicle drive-overs on a daily basis. The vehicles would be loaded down with either aliens or narcotics. We had a double drive-over in the O’Neil Valley and between the two vehicles there was 2,500 pounds of narcotics loaded inside. Those drive-overs have completely stopped. We used to have vehicles drive over with 20 or 30 aliens loaded up in them. We don’t have that happen anymore.”
Then during Operation Gatekeeper in the 1990s, construction of a 14-mile-long, triple-layer fence starting from the westernmost part of the U.S.-Mexico border in San Diego began. Although only 9 miles were completed by 2004, the San Diego sector saw a 94 percent reduction in apprehensions between 1993 and 2004, according to a 2007 report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research.
“The difference was night and day. It was so much easier to work the area,” Wilson said. “We were more effective at our jobs and we were able to do our jobs in a lot safer environment as well.”
San Diego Chief Patrol Agent Rodney Scott said in a video posted to CBP San Diego’s Twitter that the fence forces smugglers to go through the ports of entry, where a controlled environment with layers of technology and manpower allows agents to find loads of narcotics or illegal aliens hidden in makeshift compartments inside smugglers vehicles, which costs smugglers a lot of money to build.
“Without the border infrastructure between the ports of entry, there would be no reason for them to spend that extra money and try to hide and blend in with people coming through the port.”
In this video, Chief Patrol Agent Rodney Scott explains how walls help CBP stop dangerous drugs at the border. pic.twitter.com/iqB4h3fraC
— CBP San Diego (@CBPSanDiego) January 17, 2019
The multiple vehicle loads, or drive-overs, with thousands of pounds of narcotics per vehicle coming across the border often turned into high-speed pursuits in the public, putting civilians in danger. According to Scott, the infrastructure put in place now and that the border patrol wants to continue to expand would help prevent that.
“We have to be able to win the time-distance game, and we have to be able to slow down people with barriers.”
Historically, San Diego has been the preferred route for illegal immigrants and the busiest border patrol sector along the U.S.-Mexico border. According to the Transportation Bureau, more than 14 million vehicles and 7 million pedestrians crossed the San Ysidro Port of Entry between San Diego and Tijuana in 2015, making it the busiest land border crossing in the world.