The Battle Over Border Security15:53
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A U.S. Border Patrol vehicle keeps watch along the border fence in Nogales, Ariz., Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)
A U.S. Border Patrol vehicle keeps watch along the border fence in Nogales, Ariz., Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)

Bloomberg News is reporting that when House lawmakers leave Washington this week for a five week break they'll be buttonholed at public events — even hounded at the grocery store — by advocates for and against immigration reform.

Beefing up border security is one flashpoint.

The Senate has passed a $46 billion plan to double the number of agents on the U.S.-Mexico border, and add more cameras, sensors, drones and fencing.

But there's new border security plan that's coming to light that politicians and border town residents are seizing on. It was was quietly and unanimously approved by the House Homeland Security Committee back in May.

The plan simply instructs Homeland Security to write a border security plan that ensures that 90 percent of the illegal border crossers in high-traffic areas are caught within 33 months, and across the entire southern border within five years.

The sheriffs' perspective

It's is winning the backing of the Texas Border Sheriffs Coalition.

Don Reay is the executive director of that organization, and says that because the fence is inconsistent, "people are beating the border all the time."

He says this means that there is no consistent check on who comes in and out of the United States and Mexico, which makes law enforcement officials’ work more dangerous.

“You don’t know if you have a person looking for work, you don’t know if you have a person trying to visit a family, you don’t know if you have a fugitive, a heavy criminal or somebody carrying drugs,” Reay said. “The whole purpose of the fence was to divert that kind of traffic into more open areas, which would give the border patrol primarily a better response time to apprehend or to at least detain, depending what the situation is.”

Reay says the sheriffs he works with are aware of the ethical implications of fortifying the border fence.

“One sheriff made the statement that the fence was an effective tool for him within the city of El Paso,” Reay said. “However, he was philosophically against the fence.”

A border mayor weighs in

On the other side of the issue is Arturo Garino, the mayor of Nogales, Arizona, a border community.

He is against fortifying the fence, saying it hurts his community’s economic well-being by suggesting that border communities aren’t safe. Garino says it has already reduced tourism in the town.

“If we put razor wire, we are still indicating that it’s not a safe place to be,” Garino said. “We are one of the safest communities along the border.”

He says the border has become a sinister place in the American imagination, but that that's not actually the case.

“When I was a police officer and a deputy in the ’80s, we had a lot more drugs and everything coming across, and nobody seemed to care,” Garino said. “We do not need to show that force if the crisis isn’t there. Let’s try not to spend $46 billion on border security and militarize our borders, and then make us look economically not sound.”

Guests

This segment aired on July 31, 2013.

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