Border Patrol union welcomes Trump's proposed wall as a 'vital tool'

A pair of fences separates Mexico, left, and the U.S. at the border south of San Diego. (Bill Wechter / AFP)

November 18, 2016

The National Border Patrol Council has high hopes for President-elect Donald Trump’s border security policies.

The union’s president, Brandon Judd, has been advising the Trump transition team. The union, which represents Border Patrol agents and endorsed Trump for president in March, has encouraged the building of a border wall and the changing of enforcement policies put in place in the last four years.

San Diego-based Shawn Moran, vice president of the union, said a wall on the border would be a “vital tool,” and that it’s difficult to say exactly where along the border a wall is needed.

“The problem arises when you secure one area, you push traffic to another,” Moran said, citing a Border Patrol program called Operation Gatekeeper that blocked entry to much of the San Diego area.

“We didn’t think they would go through the mountains. We didn’t think they would go through the deserts. But they did,” Moran said. “The smugglers really didn’t seem to care.”

He did not know specifics about what kind of material the wall might be built out of or how tall it might be.

Many immigrant rights advocates, including the Southern Border Communities Coalition, have spoken out against such a wall.

"Border communities are safe, thriving and contribute to the economic and cultural fabric of the United States,” said Christian Ramirez, director of the coalition.

“Misguided proposals that seek to militarize border communities by deploying more federal agents and building walls do not contribute to improving the quality of life for the more than 15 million people that call the borderlands home."

The San Diego area has about 60 miles of border, according to James Nielsen, a San Diego sector Border Patrol agent and spokesman. About 46 miles has fencing and about 13 miles has two sets of fences.

The older fencing is made out of excess landing mat material from the Vietnam War. Newer fencing involves steel, poured concrete and, in some places, layers of razor wire.

Nielsen said that in 2015, San Diego agents had to make more than 550 repairs to the fences.

Moran said the old landing mat fencing was effective in stopping cars driving across the border, but not for people.

“When it comes to people, we’ve found that if you build a 20-foot fence, they build a 21-foot ladder,” Moran said. “They’re going over it, or the cartels are digging under it.”

Morrissey writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.