Monday, May 23, 2011

Border security: Tucson vs Yuma

Yuma Border Patrol agents capture a suspected illegal immigrant. Yuma Border Patrol agents capture a suspected illegal immigrant.
Reporter: Steve Nunez

YUMA, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) There was a time, not long ago, when masses upon masses of illegal immigrants and drug smugglers crossed the border through Yuma. Agents would give chase but were outnumbered and out-foxed.  
But in 6 short years, Yuma has turned things around. It's border is now the measuring stick for being under "operational control." Nine on your side wants to know, if this same strategy can work in the Tucson sector?
Just 6 years ago, illegal immigrants and drug smugglers orchestrated daily "bonsai runs" and drive thru's across the border into Yuma. But that was then.
Border Patrol Chief Rudy Karisch told KGUN9 News, Yuma is now under operational control. "This is lock down. This is my best definition of controlling the border right here," said Karisch.
Still, 9 on your side wanted to know what happens at night, when the real action starts in the cover of darkness. KGUN9 News cameras were there when agents chased down two illegal immigrants in less than 30 minutes.
Even Antonio admits it's tough getting across the border. "Now it's very hard," said Antonio. Steve Nunez asked Antonio if he'll cross again. Antonio responded, "Yes, my wife's over there and my son."
In part, politicians point to Yuma's 7,100 total arrests last year, as a measuring stick for defining a secured border.  But as 9 on your side discovered, completing the border fence has played a key role.
 In Yuma, some type of fencing stretches across all 126 miles, including enforcement zones with double and triple layered fencing.  "You have time to respond because they still have to cross fence number two and fence number three and then the natural barriers," said Karisch.
He added, "And basically apprehend them here rather than allowing them to get into the neighborhoods."
Yuma's flat terrain, its canals and the Colorado River compliment its strategy, to allow more agents to patrol remote areas. Karisch said, "And we allow the traffic to funnel into to us."
Can the Tucson sector use its environment to its advantage in the same way Yuma does across all 262-miles? For that answer KGUN9 News asked Tucson Chief Randy Hill.
He told Steve Nunez the Tucson sector shares the same goals as Yuma which is "to apprehend every single person that crosses the border."
But Hill admitted, unlike Yuma, the area's rugged and mountainous terrain is problematic for agents to stop drug smugglers from sneaking across.
Nine on your side asked Hill if completing the entire fence would make a difference.  He responded, "When you have a very rugged terrain area like we're talking about there's no need for vehicle barriers in those areas because a vehicle is not going to be able to use the area."
So instead, Hill said the Tucson sector's strategy will rely on increasing its man power from 3,800 to nearly 4,200 agents by next year. Plus, Hill said the sector is set to receive over 400-million dollars worth of new technology, including mobile cameras and sensors to help agents expand their patrols to areas only reached by helicopter right now.  
But Hill admitted this strategy could take up to 3 years to accomplish. Meanwhile, he pointed to a drop in the number of apprehensions from 616,000in 2000  to 212,000 last year as a sign that progress is already being made.
 "All of that is going to come to bare to significantly increase in my opinion border security here in Arizona," said Hill. But Hill would not commit to saying what, or when "operational control" will be achieved. "Operational control is going to be related to an individual's opinion," said Hill.
KGUN9 News asked Hill if he had a timeline for when control can be achieved. Hill could not.
Overall, while many Republican politicians point to Yuma as the model for border security, not far from its border fence, there's also a clear example of what most Democrats are calling for, a guest worker program. It has also lessened the lure for people to come across illegally and stay.
overall - while many republican politicians point to Yuma as the model for border security -
     not far from its border fence - there's also a clear example of what most democrats are calling for: a guest worker program - that has also lessened the lure for people to come across illegally - and stay.
Tucson sector chief Randy Hill told KGUN9 News the new fencing along the Nogales and Douglas border areas will make it even harder for illegal immigrants to cross through urban areas. That fencing is expected to be done in July.     


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