CBP Breaks Ground on $73.3 Million Santa Teresa Fence

More than three dozen journalist gathered at the U.S./Mexico border this morning for the ground breaking on 20 miles on new bollard style fence west of the Santa Teresa Port of Entry.

Chief Patrol Agent Aaron A. Hull for the El Paso Sector of the U.S. Border Patrol described why this area was chosen.

“This part of Santa Teresa Station area of operation is our busiest area for illegal alien apprehension, and it has been for several years.”

Flanked by a Border Patrol K-9 to his left and three horse-mounted agents to his right,  Hull for the El Paso Sector offered virtually no data on the need for the fence – except to compare March 2018 crossing to March 2017 – when immigration was at decades-low levels.

Hull, who recently returned to El Paso from a stint at the agency’s Washington, DC, headquarters did make one thing clear:

“The president has started his project, as you can see, or the ground breaking is supposed to begin today.”

A follow-up question received a similar response.

“This is the beginning in this sector of the president’s border wall. Very much so, yeah.”

Hull worked hard to make his case. The current structure, which both agency documents and news coverage consistently called “bollard fence” is now “bollard wall.”

Hull made the name change unmistakable. He used the word “Wall” 18 times in 8 minutes – and 14 more responding to questions (click here for the audio story that has all 32 instances). He was almost perfect.

“This type of fence—or, excuse me—this type of bollard wall that we’re going to replace the [vehicle] fence with is already in place in the Anapra section of Sunland Park, New Mexico.”

Prior to the January 22, 2018, announcement of this project in the Federal Register, the Border Patrol had always publicly called this type of construction a “fence.” Hull referenced the recent barrier built in Sunland Park as the same as this new structure and cited the Secure Fence Act of 2006.

In the July 2015 environmental impact study, Customs and Border Protection called the Sunland Park project a fence. KTSM-TV called it a fence. The Las Cruces Sun-News, Albuquerque Journal, and El Paso Times called it a fence.

The project will cost $73.3 million, or $3.7 million per mile. Hull admitted that this will come out of existing allocations and not from new “wall” funding.

Hull also made a case that the environment was considered.

“The environment is just as important to us as anyone else.”

Kevin Bixby, Executive Director of the Southwest Environmental Center disagrees.

“It is a wall when it comes to wildlife. That’s what people need to know. This is actually going to cause harm. It’s causing harm to wildlife, like mule deer, like mountain lions, like potentially Mexican grey wolves.”

Longtime editor of the El Paso Times, Bob Moore, offered the following tweet during the news conference:

“Context for El Paso journalists covering the extension of the border fence in Santa Teresa, part of the EP sector. Apprehensions declined 79% in the sector between FY 2006 and FY 2017. The average BP agent in the sector apprehended 1 undocumented immigrant per month in FY 17.”

For video of the entire news conference, go to the Mesilla Valley News Facebook page.