Holding Steady in West Texas

Article author: 
John Wahala
Article publisher: 
Center for Immigration Studies
Article date: 
28 March 2014
Article category: 
Our American Future
Article Body: 

Earlier this month, a group of us convened in El Paso for the Center for Immigration Studies' fourth annual border tour. On previous trips we followed the southwest boundary from east of Douglas, Arizona, to the Imperial Valley of California and traveled south along the Rio Grande from Del Rio, Texas, to Brownsville. This year we covered 1,100 miles, heading briefly into New Mexico before traveling through west Texas down the Rio Grande, into Big Bend National Park, and as far south as Terlingua.

The region is known as the Chihuahuan Desert...  it is said to be the most biologically diverse desert in the world. Its stunning landscapes have been the backdrop for Hollywood movies and the drive into Big Bend has been rated one of the most scenic in North America...

Even for those who study immigration, it is easy to see the southwest border as an abstraction, a line that can be maintained by simply erecting a fence from the Pacific to the Gulf... Each region has features that pose unique physical obstacles to defending the border...  Some areas have never had a significant number of illegal aliens because they are so treacherous and remote...

Illegal traffic did not seem disruptive in west Texas like it was during last year's tour in the Rio Grande Valley of south Texas, where groups were crossing day and night and residents showed a sense of desperation. Official statistics affirm this impression...

But even in the big city of El Paso things appear more stable. We toured the city with a retired Border Patrol sector chief who cautiously acknowledged the progress that has been made. Once beset by the highest level of illegal traffic in the country, things began to change in the early 1990s with Operation Hold the Line, the federal initiative that constructed fencing and positioned a majority of the agents right on the border. The initiative was credited with an immediate 72 percent decline in apprehensions and became a model for future enforcement actions. In 2006, Congress extended the fencing in El Paso and other parts of the border, which is just now being completed after various legal and legislative challenges.

In Chihuahuita, a small El Paso neighborhood in a crook of the Rio Grande, longtime residents told us that the fencing stopped a continuous flow of people and drugs across the border...

...Mexican drug violence has taken the lives of tens of thousands in the last decade. Some say that more than 100,000 people have been killed...The cartels have threatened every single Mexican institution...

...Border residents have expressed their frustration with politicians in Washington, who for years have been pushing amnesty while creating restrictions that limit the Border Patrol's effectiveness...

This year a high-ranking Border Patrol chief told us he retired because Customs and Border Protection, the federal agency that absorbed the Border Patrol in 2003, is too political. All of the decisions are being made by operatives in Washington and those in charge of the sectors are rarely allowed to even address the media. On a personal note, the Center for Immigration Studies has never been granted an official meeting with the Border Patrol on these trips despite repeated requests, something that used to be done routinely for almost any group that would ask. But the denials have not limited our education because we have arranged time with officials from the union that represents Border Patrol agents as well as with retired officers; they have given us far more information than the preapproved script would have...



Ten years ago in 2004, I put together a border tour. Frosty Wooldridge and a videographer joined me. We traveled extensively along Arizona's southern border. We were fortunate in that we were welcomed into the homes of locals who said that we were the first "outsiders" who took an interest in the invasion. We were given personal tours by former Law Enforcement Officers and Border Patrol agents, as well as by active agents who wished to remain anonymous.

The story hasn't changed much over the last ten years. Individual Border Patrol agents are dedicated public servants who risk their lives to defend America against invasion. Yet directives from Washington stymie their effectiveness. We heard stories of agents being told to "sit on X's" for an entire shift - that is, to sit in their truck in one spot on the border and not move. This directive was issued so that management could report fewer apprehensions.

More information:

Border security and porous United States - Mexico border fence

Desert Invasion - photos and maps of the invasion into the United States. We used to refer to it as an "unarmed invasion". However, proliferation of cartel violence into the United States clearly makes it an armed invasion - which the mainstream media refuse to cover. Perhaps we should call it an "undocumented invasion."

- Fred Elbel