Illegals Cut 9,287 Holes in Obama-Era Border Fence

By Terence P. Jeffrey | March 3, 2017 | 12:33 PM EST

A hole in the border fence. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection photo/GAO)

(CNSNews.com) - During a six-year stretch of the Obama presidency, people illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border cut 9,287 holes in the “pedestrian” fencing that currently covers only 354 miles of the 1,954-mile border, according to a report published by the Government Accountability Office.

Only 654 miles of the 1,954-mile-long U.S.-Mexico border currently have any type of fencing, according to GAO. The other 1,300 miles of border have no fencing.

Of the 654 miles of fencing, 354 miles consists of what the Department of Homeland Security calls “pedestrian” fencing. The other 300 miles is “vehicle” fencing.

“Border fencing types,” explains GAO, “include pedestrian fencing, which is primarily intended to slow down and deter pedestrians from crossing the border, and vehicle fencing, which is intended to resist vehicles engaged in drug trafficking and alien smuggling operations and is typically used in rural or isolated locations that have a low occurrence of illegal pedestrian traffic.”

The report notes that the 300 miles in “vehicle” fencing on the border is not designed to stop smugglers and other illegal crossers from entering the U.S. on foot.

“Although Tucson sector officials stated vehicle fencing has been effective in slowing and prohibiting drive throughs,” says the GAO report, “vehicle fencing is not designed to slow or deter illegal entrants from entering or smuggling contraband into the United States on foot.”

37 miles of the 354 miles of “pedestrian” border fencing is backed up by a layer of secondary fencing, according to GAO. Another 14 miles of that is backed up by tertiary fencing.

A hole in the border fence. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection photo/GAO)

The GAO report noted that it is common for “illegal entrants” to cut holes in the existing border fences so they can enter the United States.

“Agents we spoke with in the El Paso and Tucson sectors explained that one of the most common methods employed by illegal entrants involves cutting openings, or breaches, in pedestrian and vehicle fencing,” says GAO. “Once breached, illegal entrants can cross through the fence or smuggle people and contraband into the United States.

In six years during the Obama administration, “illegal entrants” cut 9,287 holes in the pedestrian fencing along the border.

“Between fiscal years 2010 and 2015, CBP recorded a total of 9,287 breaches in pedestrian fencing,” says the report. “According to our analysis of these data, illegal entrants breached legacy pedestrian fencing at an average rate of 82 breaches per fence mile, compared to an average of 14 breaches per fence mile of modern pedestrian fencing.”

The report refers to any fencing constructed from surplus Vietnam War-era landing mats or fencing designs used before Congress enacted the Secure Fence Act in 2006 as “legacy” fencing. It refers to fencing designs developed after the Secure Fence Act as “modern” fencing.

The report says holes cut in the existing border fences cost an average of $784 per hole to repair.

The report describes how the Border Patrol on the ground in the El Paso Sector tried for seven years to get DHS to approve replacing the "compromised" fencing in Sunland Park, New Mexico—which is right across the state line from El Paso, Texas.

Because the fence in Sunland was not replaced, illegal entrants deterred from crossing in El Paso--where there was a good border fence--could simply move to the West to Sunland and cross there.

“In addition, sector officials stated that modern pedestrian fencing in downtown El Paso, Texas, had diverted illegal entrant activity to Sunland Park, New Mexico, where the primary legacy pedestrian fencing is compromised,” says the GAO report.

“El Paso sector officials,” says the report, “stated that while the Sunland Park, New Mexico, area of operations has the greatest amount of illegal activity in the El Paso sector, the condition of the primary legacy pedestrian fencing does not achieve its intended purpose of slowing the progress of illegal entrants.”

“El Paso sector officials stated that sector officials provided Border Patrol headquarters written justification documenting the need for a fence replacement project in the Sunland Park, New Mexico, for seven years,” says the report. “Border Patrol approved the identified need and in fiscal year 2015 CBP began implementing the Sunland Park fence replacement project.”

Illegal entrants use instruments ranging from pipe cutters to power tools to cut holes in the existing border fencing.

“Agents we spoke with in the El Paso sector explained that creating breaches in legacy pedestrian fencing requires less effort compared to modern designs, and can be done using bolt or pipe cutters,” says GAO.

“Agents we spoke with in the Tucson sector also told us that while pedestrian fencing is generally easier to breach, they have also observed breaches in more modern fence designs, including bollard fence, which agents stated were cut using portable power tools,” says GAO.

“In addition,” says GAO, “agents in the Tucson sector stated that illegal entrants scale the taller pedestrian fencing designs, such as bollard fencing. In contrast, agents we spoke with in the San Diego sector stated that some segments of legacy fencing are low and that they have witnessed illegal entrants jumping over the fence.”

The original version of this GAO’s report on border fencing was presented to the members of Congress who had requested it on Dec. 22, 2016. But the Department of Homeland Security objected to releasing that version to the public.

“DHS deemed some of the information in the prior report as For Official Use Only—Law Enforcement Sensitive, which must be protected from public disclosure,” GAO said in the redacted version of the report that was released publicly on February 16. “Therefore, this report omits sensitive information on sustainment of TI [tactical infrastructure] and our analysis of Border Patrol data on fencing and enforcement activities.”

The 9,287 holes that were cut in the border fencing from fiscal 2010 to fiscal 2015 equals an average of about 4.2 holes per day.