On Wednesday morning, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen insisted that data proves the wall will work, and said she was “optimistic” that Congress would pass an immigration reform bill.
“The wall works. We have evidence and figures that show that,” Nielsen told Fox News’ Sandra Smith on “America’s Newsroom.” As Congress works on a bipartisan package for immigration reform, President Donald Trump has insisted on the wall as non-negotiable. Nielsen argued there is evidence that the wall is more than a symbolic message.
“When the wall went up in Yuma and San Diego, the illegal entries went down 95 percent,” Nielsen said. “I must remind the viewers that in 2006, it was a bipartisan approach to securing our country.”
The city of Yuma, Ariz., experienced a huge turn-around after the 2006 Secure Fence Act. From the late 1990s and until 2005, drug and human smugglers targeted San Luis, a California town near Yuma, and later Yuma itself, Fox News’ William La Jeunesse reported.
In 2005, illegal immigrants overwhelmed Yuma. Border agents made an average of 800 arrests a day. Stolen drug-running vehicles crossed the border unmolested, and an estimated eight trucks per day drove into Arizona on Interstate 8.
“It was the Wild West out here,” Yuma sector Border Patrol chief Anthony Porvaznik told Fox News. After 2006, Border Patrol set up an effective system.
Yuma has a 20-foot high steel curtain separating the city from Mexico. Beyond the wall lie 75 yards of flat, sandy, no man’s land, monitored by Border Patrol cameras and sensors and agents in SUVs. After that, it gets even better — an imposing steel fence lies across the no man’s land, and another cyclone fence topped by barbed wire stands, just in case any illegal crossers make it that far.
“It works,” Border Patrol Agent Richard Withers told Fox News. “This is the most secure area of the border. It is pretty hard for a guy to cross here. But they try.”
Former acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke explained that even under lax enforcement standards, the number of illegal crossings in 2016 were only one tenth of what they were in 2005. Under President Donald Trump, Border Patrol has ramped up enforcement.
Not all areas of the border enjoy the same security, however. Smugglers target specific areas of weak enforcement, driving would-be immigrants to hike 80 miles in the Sonora desert from Mexico. More than 2,000 immigrants died from dehydration or heat stroke attempting to cross.
As for the 2006 bipartisan effort, Nielsen noted that Democrats voted for the Secure Fence Act. Then Senators Barack Obama (D-Ill.), Joe Biden (D-Del.), and Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) voted for it. They reportedly did so only to prevent a harsher immigration bill, but they still voted for it.
The law called for a reinforced fence, but in 2008 Congress altered the bill, calling for only one level of fencing. A fence, and even a wall, still requires a robust Border Patrol enforcement.
Trump dismissed the current fence as “such a nothing wall.” Yuma does indeed suggest a stronger fence, and even a full wall, would be more effective at fighting illegal immigration and drug smuggling than the current system.
While Democrats insist on a fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an Obama program to stall immigration enforcement for children who were brought to the U.S. illegally, they may have to cave on a few other border security issues in order to achieve a compromise. Otherwise, they risk shutting down the government — a move that will likely cost them in the 2018 elections.
In her interview Wednesday, Nielsen said she was “optimistic” Congress would make a deal. She laid out the “four pillars” of an agreement: a permanent fix for DACA recipients, an increase in border security (including the wall), ending chain migration, and eliminating the diversity lottery.
The wall may be the most controversial issue, and Trump does not seem to be budging. Will Democrats cave on the wall to make a deal on DACA? Stranger things have happened.