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Homeland Security

San Diego Border Barrier

In January 2001 the Army Corps of Engineers proposed construction of a Border Barrier Project along the U.S./Mexico border with San Diego County, California and Tijuana, Mexico. This called for the completion of the barrier project within the remaining five miles of the 14-mile project. The barrier system consisted of several components including a secondary fence, patrol and maintenance roads, lights, and Integrated Surveillance and Intelligence System (ISIS) resources. At the time of the proposal, only nine miles of the 14-mile project had been completed or was currently under construction. The Border Barrier Project was needed to provide a permanent enforcement zone that would ensure detection and apprehension of illegal immigrants and smugglers and, thus, provide long-term deterrence.

The first primary fence in San Diego was completed in 1993 and covered the first 14 miles of the U.S./Mexico border, starting from the Pacific Ocean, and was constructed of 10-foot-high welded steel. According to the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, the primary fence, in combination with various labor intensive U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) enforcement initiatives along San Diego border region proved to be quite successful but fiscally and environmentally costly. For example, as undocumented aliens and smugglers breached the primary fence and attempted to evade detection, USBP agents were often forced to pursue the suspects through environmentally sensitive areas. It soon became apparent to immigration officials and lawmakers that the USBP needed, among other things, a more rigid enforcement system that could integrate infrastructure.

As a result of the issues that occured with the single 10-foot high steel fence, the 2001 proposal to build a three-fence barrier came about. The proposal called for roads inbetween the rows of fencing to be patrolled by border agents, and stadium style lights to illuminate the fence and roads making it easier to spot and detain illegal border crossers.

After initial construction on the fence began, environmental laws slowed down progress. On 10 February 2005, Bill HR 418 was passed. Section 102 of the bill amends the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA) to authorize the Secretary of Homeland Security, in the Secretary's sole discretion, to waive all (environmental) laws as necessary to ensure expeditious construction of certain barriers and roads at the U.S. border. It also prohibits courts, administrative agencies, and other entities from reviewing the Secretary's decision or from ordering relief for damages alleged to have resulted from such decision. As of fiscal year 2007, $30 million had been allocated to complete the project.

With the establishment of the fence, crime rates in San Diego fell by nearly half between 1989 and 2000. The number of illegal immigrant apprehensions decreased from more than a half million in 1993 to just over a hundred thousand in 2003. The fence also helped stem the tide of drug smuggling with cocaine seizures dropping from 1200 pounds to about 150 pounds and a decline of 58,000 pounds of marijuana coming across the San Diego border in 1993 to just over 36 thousand pounds a decade later.

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Page last modified: 13-07-2011 12:50:49 ZULU