SUNLAND PARK, New Mexico (Border Report) – The footprints were clearly visible in the mid-morning sun. They told the story of at least two people wiggling under a steel mesh border wall hastily propped up several inches above the ground.
“These are prints of a group that came through maybe last night. There’s areas where you can just dig right under; you don’t even have to go over (the wall). […] There’s areas where probably you can squeeze in between,” said U.S. Border Patrol Assistant Supervisory Agent Carlos Rivera.
Other portions of this stretch of wall west of Sunland Park show multiple gaps between the mesh planks that are also exploited by smugglers from Mexico to get migrants into the United States.
The area represents a challenge for already thinly stretched border agents who must respond to these clandestine crossings before unvetted foreign nationals reach NM Highway 273 and their ride to a migrant stash house. In this area, migrants occasionally get disoriented and lost, wander the desert in triple-digit heat, and die.
The gaps surfaced in the wake of the Biden administration halting border wall construction in a part of Southern New Mexico, where the wire mesh was to be replaced with a more sturdy, harder-to-climb steel bollards barrier.
“This was put back by the contractors at our request,” Rivera said. “They were tearing down sections and building by section. Tear down, put up. The day the proclamation came out. There was a big old gap here.”
Some of the mesh planks were put back upside down and anchored to steel mooring. The materials for the new wall lie abandoned a few feet north.
The Border Patrol says it is adjusting to current conditions.
“We depend on our infrastructure, our technology and our manpower. At least we like to have two out of three in a majority of our area,” Rivera said. “When we have an infrastructure that’s a complete lack of fence, then we have to rely on at least technology and that’s why we have a camera right behind us.”
U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell, R-New Mexico, said the Biden administration “dropped the ball” by stopping border wall construction already in progress in her district.
“Forcing the brave men and women of Border Patrol to deal with broken fences full of holes shows that the Biden administration is not serious about border security, careless toward law enforcement, and unconcerned with the safety of New Mexico’s families,” Herrell said.
The White House said it stopped border wall construction as soon as Biden took office because it was too costly, harmful to the environment and is not the solution to America’s immigration challenges. Though former President Trump claimed he built over 400 miles of new border wall the Biden administration maintains it was only 52 miles at a cost of $46 million per mile in some locations.
“The effort diverted critical resources away from military training facilities and schools, and caused serious risks to life, safety, and the environment. It also took attention away from genuine security challenges, like drug smuggling and human trafficking,” the White House said last year.
The Department of Homeland Security more recently acquiesced to pleas to complete some unfinished sections of border wall. That construction will take place in California, Arizona and Texas.
“We’ve wasted too much time focusing on an ineffective border wall instead of solving our nation’s broken immigration system. The wall will not stem the flow of migration – we should instead focus on finding ways to provide a fair, humane and predictable path to citizenship while investing in more effective and efficient ways to keep our borders safe,” said Gabriel Vasquez, who is running on the Democratic ticket for the southern New Mexico congressional seat.