A new fence, more agents and updated technology have resulted in a 90 percent drop over a five-year span in the apprehensions of undocumented immigrants along the divide between El Paso, Texas, and Mexico, the U.S. Border Patrol says.
“[The new fence] gives us the opportunity to do our jobs a lot better,” said Jake Núñez, a public affairs officer for the U.S. Border Patrol. “It gives us time, if someone tries to climb over it or go through the fence.”
We also have to realize what we are doing is very important for the citizens of our country
The El Paso Sector, where on average some 30 undocumented immigrants are arrested daily, includes parts of west Texas and the entire state of New Mexico.
The construction of the new steel fence along the El Paso border began in 2007 – replacing the endless stretch of simple, wired fences.
It was completed in 2010, the agency says.
The fence has seemingly caused a dip in apprehensions. Border Patrol officials say that in 2005 more than 120,000 undocumented immigrants were caught in the in the sector; in 2007, 75,464 apprehension were made. Last year, there were 12,251 arrests, the agency said.
More boots on the ground, too, can be credited for the drop in apprehensions, Núñez said.
Since 2007, they have hired approximately 480 more Border Patrol agents, totaling 2,700 in the sector, he said.
In 2010, that number increased to 20,558 nationwide, Núñez added.
“It has allowed El Paso to become much safer,” he said.
Indeed, CQ Press, a research firm that studies the safety of cities, rated El Paso the safest city in the U.S. with a population of over 500,000 in 2010. Javier Sambrano, a public information officer for the El Paso Police Department, said the rating is due in part the large law enforcement presence in the city, including the U.S. Border Patrol.
“El Paso historically has had a very good reputation of having good relationships with respects to both federal and local agencies,” said Sambrano, adding that the agencies frequently share information.
Núñez also credits the development of more powerful Remote Video Surveillance System cameras.
“They are getting more powerful and it allows us, the agents or the sector enforcement specialist, who actually monitor these cameras, to be able to perform their duties a lot better,” he said.
Further, Border Patrol agents, during rounds of an assigned area, conduct a so-called “drag”; that is, a vehicle drives along the fence pulling several tires linked together to make a smooth trail.
That's how they look for footprints along the fence from anyone who may jump the fence.
Núñez said agents are constantly vigilant.
“In urban areas we’ve been seeing a lot of people, undocumented migrants, trying to come in," Núñez said. "Because these terrains [are] so close together it would really take pretty much seconds for someone to come in from Mexico into the U.S. and blend with the community.”
He added that drug smugglers sneak in narcotics most frequently through rural areas.
El Paso neighbors Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, considered among the most dangerous places in the world because of the explosion of drug cartel violence over the last few years. El Paso law enforcement agents report that no spillover violence has happened; Núñez adds that the responsibilities of Border Patrol agents haven’t changed, either.
It’s just keeping them more alert, he said.
“There’s a lot of cartels fighting over these smuggling routes and it is dangerous for what we do, but we also have to realize what we are doing is very important for the citizens of our country,” he added.
José Manuel Escobedo, policy director for the Border Network for Human Rights, an immigration advocacy group in El Paso, said they generally support the increase in border patrol agents, so long as they are well trained to understand the rights of immigrants.
“It’s a good thing, and so far these agents are well trained to respect a person’s civil rights,” Escobedo said.
He does, however, strongly oppose the construction of the new fence.
“It was a nasty punch in the gut,” he told Fox News Latino. “It physically separates the two communities – the families that are split in between the border, and commerce that happens on both sides of the border.”
Escobedo added that the apprehension numbers are down not due to law enforcement initiatives – but rather because of the struggling U.S. economy.
“When job availability goes down," he said, "migration is going to go down, too.”
Patrick Manning is a Junior Reporter with Fox News.