EL PASO, Texas – As the new government puts together a plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, in El Paso, Texas, the idea of a border wall is nothing new.
The border town siting directly across from Juarez has had
fencing for over 25 years. It has been significantly enhanced over the years, especially between 2007 and 2009, when large steel fencing was installed between the two cities.
Former Congressman Silvestre Reyes, who is also the former chief of El Paso Sector Border Patrol, believes the fence plays a big role to improve safety for both residents and law enforcement.
“From an officer safety standpoint and a managing the border standpoint, it’s very effective,” said Reyes.
While Reyes was chief of the El Paso Sector, he enacted the Operation Hold the Line, where all available border patrol agents worked a 20-mile section in El Paso to prevent people from running across the border.
He told Fox News that thanks to the operation illegal crossings in El Paso dropped from 10,000 a day to 500.
Local business owner Dorine Brown was seriously considering moving her store away from the border area until a fence was built directly behind it in 2005. She recalls how undocumented immigrants would run inside her shop to hide from border patrol and entire families would break in and sleep in her warehouse overnight.
“We haven’t had a single person cross [since then]. Not one,” said Brown.
Allyn Echaniz, who also owns a business right on the border, said the fencing is “the best thing ever.” She understands that some people are against the wall, but she says she can attest to the security gains it brought to the town.
She said one night the alarms went off in her business because someone was trying to carve a hole into the back of her building. She also said over the year she has watched many people run across the Rio Grande and through her property, or on the highway in front of her business. She said it’s a lot safer now.
“I guess it’s not a friendly looking thing, but if you stop and think about it, don’t we all have a front door and a back door to our
homes?” said Echaniz.
In some areas, there’s more than just a fence. For instance,
8 miles around the Ysleta Port of Entry in east El Paso, there’s an additional steel barrier about 15 feet high, a canal with swift water flowing directly on the other side, and another barbed wire fence along the canal. Even with all that security, border agents still patrol the area day and night.
Former Border Patrol Agent Martin Wilson who began his career in 1985, when just about the only thing stopping illegal immigration was the Rio Grande River and his fellow agents, agrees that the fencing is helpful. He remembers being part of Operation Hold the Line and how effective it was for the safety of the city.
“It is a big deterrent, it is effective in that sense,” he said. “It gives us that deterrence and gives us time, and with the proper resources then we can be more effective.”
Ray Bogan is a Fox News multimedia reporter based in El Paso, Texas. Follow him on twitter: @RayBogan