Washington (CNSNews.com) - Judge Veronica Escobar of El Paso, a Texas Democrat, told CNSNews.com that the federal government’s border security approach is “ineffective” because it involves building fences that are “pushing border crossers” to “more dangerous, treacherous crossings” or inspiring them to build tunnels.
The judge said the federal government should invest more money in modernizing ports of entry.
“While federal law enforcement has gone on the record to praise the border wall, it is to me and others an example of considerable federal dollars being spent on a rusting monument that makes my community look like a junkyard,” Judge Escobar told an Apr. 7 hearing of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.
"We are indeed on the front lines, and a safe border means a safe nation," she added. "But vilifying immigrants, building expensive, ugly walls, and encouraging hysteria and xenophobia only hurt our border communities, our commerce and the economy of the nation."
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a committee member, and Judge Escobar sparred over the value of border fencing.
“I must say I respect your view about ugly fences and junkyard things and all that, but it certainly doesn’t apply to my state, nor the citizens of my state,” McCain told the judge.
“I certainly don’t view the ranchers who live in the southern part of my state who are subject to repeated home invasions as xenophobic,” he continued, “and I hope that you were not including citizens of my state in your comments about people who practice xenophobia.”
CNSNews.com asked Judge Escobar to elaborate on her comments following the April 8 hearing.
“The approach to immigration and to drug trafficking by the federal government, I think, has been … ineffective and expensive,” she said. “So instead of policies that evaluate the drug trafficking and the insatiable appetite that Americans have for illegal drugs, we build a wall and we build a wall where we’re pushing the border crossers -- 85 percent of whom are not criminals, 85 percent of whom are wanting to come and find work in American companies, American jobs that lure people here -- and so they’re just getting pushed out to more dangerous treacherous crossings or building tunnels.”
Escobar said that border crossers will “always” find a way around, under, or above a border fence.
Sheriff Paul Babeu of Pinal County, Ariz., was among the law enforcement officials testifying at the hearing, along with Sheriff Raymond Loera of Imperial County, Calif., and Sheriff Raymond Cobos of Luna County, N.M.
“I’m all for modernizing ports of entry, but absolutely we heard testimony here today from the other sheriffs who were in agreement with me that border fencing actually works with the proper enforcement,” Babeu told CNSNews.com.
“You have to have surveillance, you have to have infrared camera at night, you have to have lighting in the key areas that have a historic, proven history of border crossings,” he added.
Babeu pointed to Uniformed Crime Statistics from the FBI showing that violent crime in San Diego dropped by 52 percent – proof, he said, that fencing along with enforcement works.
“We saw the proof down in Yuma, where I served as a commanding officer and we built a double-barrier fence” just in urban areas. He said it’s not “militarizing the border” to have soldiers and airmen at the border for a period of time – “until you can build the infrastructure that can sustain these long-term improvements to secure the border.”
Regarding the border fence, Sheriff Cobos, said, “It stopped women and children, we got pretty tired of rescuing women and children” who are left to die in remote areas on the border by human smugglers.
In his prepared remarks, Sheriff Loera noted that alien apprehensions along the southwest border have decreased across the board. “This may be due to increases in manpower by USBP [Border Patrol], improved equipment and technology, border fences, as well as the state of the economy.”
According to the Department of Homeland Security, of the 670 miles of border fencing requested by Congress, nearly 649 miles have been completed. Estimates of the cost stand at over $6.5 billion.
The Obama administration in January ended a high-tech, “virtual” border fence project that cost taxpayers nearly $1 billion but did little to improve security. Congress ordered the high-tech fence along the border with Mexico in 2006, but it covers only 53 miles.