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25 years ago, Operation Gatekeeper ushered in crackdown on illegal immigration

Posted at 5:34 PM, Oct 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-01 21:05:30-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — It's been 25 years since President Bill Clinton approved Operation Gatekeeper, the measure focused on the issue of immigrants crossing the border illegally — specifically the San Diego sector.

Two key parts of Operation Gatekeeper were surveillance equipment and enforcement infrastructure, like walls and fences.

Twenty-five years later, Border Patrol Agent Theron Francisco tells 10News, "Before Gatekeeper this area was in utter chaos, agents were apprehending 1,000 per shift. We had hundred of thousands of apprehensions a year."

It's a measure that Francisco says paved the way for Border Patrol today.

"It's absolutely night and day from where we were back then," Francisco said.

Tuesday, those against Operation Gatekeeper held a rally.

Former Border Patrol agent Jenn Budd tells 10News, "That was the whole purpose, to push them out here to make it more difficult and dangerous for them to cross. I didn't want to be a part of it but its something I have to admit I was a part of."

Budd tells 10News, it's partly why she left Border Patrol, "I left because I felt the policies we were enacting were killing people and what we were representing to the public wasn't the truth."

Meantime, Border Patrol agents say it's only helped increase San Diego safety.

"The days are gone where illegal aliens are running through people's backyards trying to hide from Border Patrol," Francisco added.

Budd says, "We need them to work for us, we need them to protect our borders we need them to keep drug smugglers out, but we don't need children dying in their custody and all sorts of things they're doing right now."