Border Patrol Hosts IACP Chiefs

By Sanow, Ed | Law & Order, February 2001 | Go to article overview

Border Patrol Hosts IACP Chiefs


Sanow, Ed, Law & Order


Operation Gatekeeper has dramatically improved the quality of life in San Diego. During the 2000 IACP conference, the U.S.

Border Patrol conducted three hour tours along the Mexican border for IACP attendees. The purpose was to show off the incredible changes in border enforcement that have occurred over the past six years. Prior to addressing the main session of the IACP, Attorney General Janet Reno also toured the Imperial Beach station and the nearby border to observe the same improvements.

Many officers recall the 1992 video showing swarms of illegal aliens running past the San Ysidro border checkpoint. Men and women carrying babies crossed multi-lane freeways and walked between the driving lanes of Interstate 5. Yellow diamond warning signs along 1-5 remain today, a reminder of a time when motorists were warned to watch out for pedestrian traffic on the interstate. The San Ysidro border crossing is the largest international port in the world in terms of traffic. Each day 800,000 people legally cross here.

Operation Gatekeeper began in 1994. This was a well thought out, well funded effort to slow down and redirect illegal entry of foreign nationals into the United States. The effort included deployment of large numbers of Border Patrol Agents to the San Diego area, adoption of high-tech detection devices, integration of high-tech identity/biometrics systems and the erection of a 60 mile long barrier.

The 16 foot tall fence starts in the Pacific Ocean and runs east to the Imperial County line. In some high traffic areas, the border has double fencing and a few stretches have triple fencing. Some of the sections also have an additional four foot tall steel mesh rock guard.

Some of this terrain, 13 miles of it, is simply too rugged for a fence to be erected. An idea of how rugged some of this area is comes from the Border Patrol use of the military Hummer. The Border Patrol received eight Hummers from the military and broke six of them in two weeks. The rest of the fenced international border is reminiscent of the Great Wall of China: a tall, well-built barrier running up and down hills and valleys along the border. The Border Patrol has similar initiatives in El Paso, TX (Operation Hold The Line), and in Tucson, AZ (Operation Safeguard).

In 1993, prior to Operation Gatekeeper, the U.S. Border Patrol apprehended one million illegal aliens each year. Of that nationwide total, 25% or 250,000 illegal aliens were arrested in the five mile stretch from the ocean to the Imperial Beach station. Of that same nationwide total, 50% were arrested in the ten mile stretch from the ocean to the China Vista station. Today, this area accounts for less than ten percent of the apprehensions. In 1999, the Imperial Beach station made just 15,000 detentions.

The vast majority of illegal aliens are offered a Voluntary Return and are bused back to the border within four hours of their apprehension. The informal policy now is no harm, no foul. It is simply not practical to incarcerate one million people per year. The clear exceptions are smugglers and felons, who are arrested and prosecuted.

The San Diego border canyons are now patrolled in 44 and all-terrain vehicles, and on horseback. …

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