While Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton continue to debate the security of U.S. borders, I pedaled on my bicycle along portions of the U.S.-Mexico line to learn more about protection measures currently in place.
The U.S.-Mexico border is nearly 2,000 miles long, and barriers run along approximately 580 miles of this southern perimeter.
Border Patrol Agent Jamie Nielsen invited us to bike between the double fencing flanking San Diego. A corrugated metal fence provides the primary barrier to entry, followed by a fifteen-foot barbed wire fence.
“You can see there are a lot of cuts in it. Criminal organizations will cut holes in the fence and then send groups of people through them,” Nielsen said.
Approximately 85 people are apprehended daily on the San Diego section of the border, Nielsen said.
“When it comes to politics, when you go out to your area that you’re working out here in the fields, it’s just about protecting the area that you’re working that day and making sure you go home safe at night,” said Nielsen in regards to the growing political conversation about border security.
Nearly twice as many individuals are turned away at the busiest gateway to the United States — San Ysidro Port of Entry — where approximately 150 of 100,000 people crossing each day lack sufficient documentation.
“The majority of people are good people. They’re coming for valid reasons. They have documents. They’re coming to shop. They’re coming to school. They’re coming to work,” said Assistant Port Director Bob Hood.
Because U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials do not have access to the full criminal records of non-U.S. citizens, they arrest more returning U.S. criminals than foreign criminals at San Ysidro.
In addition to identifying people without proper documentation or criminal records, CBP also searches vehicles for narcotics and other contraband. According to Hood, an average of 5 to 12 narcotics seizures occur within a 24 hour period at this port.
“It’s the most fun job in the world. It’s like hunting. It’s trying to find things: hide and seek,” Hood said.
Passing through San Ysidro in a vehicle can take up to four hours, but pedestrians and bicyclists have a separate, often faster lane.
I cycled through in less than 30 minutes.
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