SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - San Diego Sector Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott took 10News on a tour of the U.S.-Mexico border Friday to explain what works - and what doesn’t - for his department.
10News asked Scott about the impact of the government shutdown on Border Patrol agents. As of Dec. 22, the group is among those working without pay. Scott said both border security and the morale of the people who work for him will be challenged if the shutdown gets drawn out.
Politicians continue to fight over funding for a border wall and lost in the bickering may be the language. President Trump continues to fight for “a wall.” And yet, earlier this week his Chief of Staff John Kelly told the Los Angeles Times that the idea of a solid concrete wall was abandoned early in the administration. Wall, fence, whatever you want to call it, no one knows what’s needed most for border security than border agents themselves.
During our crew’s tour with Chief Scott, we witnessed migrants crossing illegally over an outdated fence.
"So, on January 1, this wire was not here either," said Scott.
He pointed to a section of an old, outdated border fence made of steel slats once used as runway mats for the military. Scott tried to make his case that no matter what happens in Washington D.C., his agents are the ones in the real fight.
"On January 1 the people throwing rocks were up on top of that berm," said Scott, pointing to an area where migrants had high ground on his border agents.
Scott gave our crew a tour of where the most recent confrontation took place with migrants trying to cross the border. He said his agents had to use tear gas after rocks were thrown from Mexico and claimed assaults on his agents are up 300 percent this fiscal year.
Scott confirmed one of his agents was hit in the face with a rock. “But he had a riot helmet and shield on, so he wasn't seriously injured,” Scott said.
The biggest problem, Scott said, is the outdated and ineffective fence. In some cases, there is no way for his agents to see who's on the other side and if they pose a danger. And while Congress and the White House argue over a border wall, Scott and his agents at least have a small saving grace.
"All of this, that you have here, is just within the last couple of weeks? This was in the last week," said Scott, proudly pointing out a new portion of fence.
The new replacement fence was funded before President Trump came into office and was shown to our crew by Border Patrol for the first time. Eventually it will be 14 miles long, and 18 feet high on average, even taller in other areas. And for Border Patrol agents, it’s a game changer in border security. This new fence has concrete that runs 6 feet below the surface, so migrants are unable to dig under the fence. Steel bollards, encased in concrete, are separated by mere inches allowing agents to see what's on the other side. In some areas, the wall is 30 feet high. That's a significant upgrade from other areas of the outdated fence where human traffickers can cut through the metal.
"On average there's 3 and a half breaches in this per day," said Chief Scott, indicating patches in the fence that have been sawed through. "To jump the legacy landing mat fence, run up and start a cut in this fence big enough that you can actually get people through, is less than 2 minutes total time."
As Scott spoke with 10News, three migrants jumped the old fence, but had no desire to cut through the secondary fence and escape. They quickly surrendered to a Border Patrol agent.
"When that happens there is a high probability that they are going to claim asylum,” said Scott. “What that really means is that they just cut the line in front of a couple of thousand people that are doing it right and are waiting at the port of entry."