One year after the construction of a new fence in this Arizona border town, the number of attacks on Border Patrol agents has dropped, as have the confiscation of drugs and the discovery of tunnels used by drug runners.
“The new infrastructure is a real benefit for the agents - now they can identify a threat before it gets near the border,” Crystal Amarillas, a spokeswoman for the Border Patrol Tucson Sector, told Efe.
The new barrier, which cost $11.8 million, is a construction of separated metal bars set at a slight angle that gives Border Patrol agents a better view of the Mexican side.
The barrier measures 18 feet high and is set deeper in the ground, a strategic measure to prevent the digging of secret tunnels.
The fence, which runs for 2.8 miles, replaced the old solid metal panels that were frequently cut by smugglers to cross the border with their payloads of humans and drugs.
According to Border Patrol figures, in the 12 months that ended Aug. 1, the number of attacks on agents at the Nogales station dropped by 63 percent.
“When we talk about attacks we’re talking about stones that are sometimes thrown from the Mexican side,” Amarillas said.
She said that with better visibility, the agents can also detect the presence of large groups of people and whether they are trying to cross the border illegally or are transporting drugs.
This new infrastructure and the presence of the Border Patrol also makes criminals think twice about attempting a crossing.
Detentions of undocumented immigrants have also dropped by 5 percent during the same period, while in Nogales agents registered “a 22-percent decline in tunnels discovered.”
In Amarillas’ view, the new infrastructure has not only served to improve agents’ security, but also that of nearby urban communities.
“If you talk to people living near the wall, they feel safer, because now they too can see what’s happening on the other side, while the flow of undocumented migrants has also diminished in those areas,” she said.
Amarillas acknowledged that there are still people trying to cross the border illegally by climbing over the new fence, which has left some migrants with serious injuries.
“That has a lot to do with the people traffickers - the ‘coyote’ (smuggler) puts them on a ladder to climb up the Mexican side, but when they get to the top, he snatches it away, leaving them to their own devices,” she said.
The Arizona border is considered by the federal government as one of the main “red” zones for drugs and undocumented immigrants coming into the country along the Mexican border.