Written by American Patrol Reports
DHS and group differ over tally of how much border fence has been built
On Sept. 14, the Herald / Review published an article in which Angela de Rocha, public affairs officer for Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection, stated Secure Border Initiative had constructed more than half of the 670 miles of fencing required by the Secure Fence Act of 2006.
She said "as of August 29, 2008, SBI had completed 190 miles of pedestrian fence and 154.3 miles of vehicle fence, for a total of 344.3 miles of fence out of 670."
Glenn Spencer, president of American Border Patrol, a nonprofit organization, said those amounts were wrong, based on information his group has compiled during aerial surveys along the border.
As of July 29, the Secure Border Initiative had built only 108 miles of pedestrian fence. Also, there were about 161 miles of vehicle barriers, for a total of about 269 miles, according to American Border Patrol.
As I See It -- Glenn Spencer
The story in today's Sierra Vista Herald does a good job of reporting on the dispute between American Border Patrol and the Department of Homeland Security over the amount of fence that has been constructed along the border, however I would like to flesh it out a bit with background.
As it says on their Web site The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is known as "the investigative arm of Congress" and "the congressional watchdog." On Sept. 10, GAO released a report on the Secure Border Initiative.
In it they report the following:
"We [GAO] previously reported that as of February 21, 2008, the SBI program office had constructed 168 miles of pedestrian fence and 135 miles of vehicle fence. ...Approximately 6 months later, the SBI program office reports that 19 additional miles of pedestrian fence and 19 additional miles of vehicle fence have been constructed as of August 22, 2008 "
In other words, according to the GAO, as of August 22 DHS/SBI claimed it had constructed 187 miles of pedestrian fence on the U.S./Mexico border.
On September 14, the Sierra Vista Herald reported that American Border Patrol was challenging the claim by DHS/SBI that it had constructed 190 miles of pedestrian fence on the border.
"His (Spencer's) group's data shows that only 108 miles of fence have been built so far, in addition to about 161 miles of vehicle barriers, according to www.americanborderpatrol.com.
So here we have a clear disagreement. DHS says it has constructed 190 miles of fence and ABP says it is 108 miles. Who is right?
Curiously, the GAO report includes Table 3 entitled Tactical Infrastructure Deployment Progress as of August 22, 2008. In it, they report that SBI had "deployed" 109 miles of pedestrian fence, not 187 as claimed by the DHS/SBI. GAO makes no attempt to explain the difference.
This estimate of the fence mileage is so incredibly close to the 108 miles of new fence found by the ABP surveys I can only conclude that GAO somehow based its figures on our numbers. How else would they get the number? ABP is the only organization performing an independent survey of the border and, clearly, DHS/SBI was not telling them the truth.
In today's Sierra Vista Herald, DHS now claims that the 190 miles figure included old fencing that was constructed prior to the creation of the Secure Border Initiative. They said it has always been included in the 670 miles of border fence that was to be in place by the end of the year. But this doesn't hold water.
First, the GAO says that SBI "had constructed" 187 miles of fence as of August 22. SBI did not construct the old fence.
Second, the Secure Fence Act of 2006 specified five exact segments along the border where the border fence was to be placed. None of the segments included the San Diego area. But 13 miles of old border fence now claimed by DHS as being part of the 670 mile requirement of the Secure Fence Act is near San Diego and this area was not included in the legal specifications. How can DHS claim that fencing built outside the area covered by the law meets the requirements of the law?
CLAIM NOT SUPPORTED
When confronted with ABP's estimate of 108 miles and the GAO of 109 miles of fence, now claims that the 190 miles included old fencing. This is simply not supported by the facts.
MAINSTREAM MEDIA REPORTING
For months the mainstream media have been reporting that the DHS had constructed more than 300 miles of border fence.
This is from the New York Times of May 21: "Mr. Chertoff acknowledged in an interview that constructing physical barriers - as of last month, about 309 miles of fence had been built - is not the key to stopping illegal immigration, but he defended the fence's usefulness."
Four months after this interview, ABP reported Mr. Chertoff had built less than 130 miles fence on the border and most of it is not effective.
Much of what Chertoff is calling a "fence" is really a vehicle barrier that will not stop people, including terrorists, from walking into the United States. There is evidence that much of the vehicle barrier can be defeated as well.
I truly believe that a thorough investigation would find that the DHS has been intentionally misleading the American public about the border fence and the mainstream media have been dutifully reporting his claims.
I certainly hope that the excellent follow-up reporting by the Sierra Vista Herald breaks the ice with the rest of the media allowing a full airing of the situation on our border.