Breaking down El Paso’s border barriers: Special Report

Immigration

For a lot of us living in the borderland, the border barriers separating the United States and Mexico are really nothing new.

There are currently 188 miles of different border barriers in the El Paso sector.

From the legacy chain link fence to steel fences and beyond.

Walking toward famed Mount Cristo Rey, there’s no sign of the issue still dividing the country, which partially shut down the government for a month.

“The barrier is meant to be exactly that, it’s to be the obstacle for somebody who wants to come illegally into the United States,” said Agent Fidel Baca, spokesman for the U.S. Border Patrol. “They are going to face this obstacle. they are going to have to get through it to come in illegally. Well, the mountain is just that, a natural barrier.”

In 1993 the U.S. Border Patrol launched Operation Hold the Line. It was designed to make agents more visible along the border, almost like a vehicle wall.

“It was open, all of this, there was nothing here,” said former Congressman Silvestre Reyes, who was also Chief of the El Paso Border Patrol sector at the time.

He ordered the blockade.

“I came up with moving the agents right up on the line, and going from chasing and arresting to acting as a force of deterrence,” Reyes said. 

Chain link and mesh fences 

The chain link fence is still on a small portion of the border but it is all being replaced by the bollard fence because the chain link is not durable.

“Somebody could just make a hole and come across,” Baca said. 

One area of that fence ended up gathering trash and sand shifting the ground. At one point, the ground was taller on the Mexico side.

“On the south side, people would stand there and the fence would be chest high. agents would be on the ground because of the dirt build up and be looking up and the fence would be over them” said Dr. Victor Manjarrez, former Border Patrol sector chief.

And then there are mesh fences which are also easy to look through but if you look at them closely, the mesh doubles up which makes them harder to cut through.

Bollard fence 

In 2008, when Victor Manjarrez was El Paso’s Border Patrol chief the stronger fences started being built.

“That fence is not designed to stop every single person,” Manjarrez said. “What it does,  it does filter who is going to cross over a fence. More importantly, it provides law enforcement the ability to respond to an incursion.”

In some cases, the bollard fence was put in place to allow for water, sand and even trash to flow through.

It’s the hardest of all fences to cut through. The steel beems are filled with cement and rebar.

Vehicle barriers

In the more rural areas with more rugged terrain and not a home for miles, you can find vehicle barriers.

“If someone does decide to walk across, we have a lot more time for us to find the entry, and react to the entry to make the apprehension,” Baca said. 

Each piece of the border barriers is a little different from the last.

We asked Silvestre Reyes about what he thinks about when he sees children on the other side of the fence. 

“Those of us on this side are very fortunate we’re in the U.S. and not in Mexico,” he said.

In Part Two of this special report, we tell you why former Border Patrol chiefs say there was a need for the border barriers, and what they think about President Donald Trump’s border wall proposal.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.