Oops! U.S. border barrier partly in Mexico
By Louie Gilot / El Paso Times
Article Launched: 06/25/2007 06:54:35 PM MDT
Two years ago, national guardsmen built several miles
of vehicle barrier along the fenceless border west of
The work was praised by many. The barrier's sturdy
poles blocked illegal vehicle crossings, if not
undocumented immigrants on foot. The barrier was also
environmentally friendly, allowing for the natural
movement of animals.
As it turns out, it was also misplaced.
U.S. government officials said 1.8 miles out of more
than 13 miles of the barrier are trespassing one to
seven feet into Mexico, depending on the area,
creating a delicate diplomatic situation.
Mexican officials have asked that the barrier be moved
north and the U.S. government has agreed.
The Department of Homeland Security and the
International Boundary and Water Commission uncovered
the encroachment recently during a geographical
survey, said Sally Spener, the commission's
"We want to reiterate that this was inadvertent. The
U.S. government has the highest respect for the
Mexican sovereignty," Spener said.
The error apparently comes from the placement of a
century-old border marker erected without the benefit
of modern GPS devices.
The offending stretch of barrier was built about 15
miles west of Columbus at the foot of the so-called
Johnson Mountains. The barrier separates U.S. farmland
from the Mexican hamlet of Las Chepas, a notorious
staging ground for migrant smugglers.
James Johnson, vice president of Carzalia Valley
Produce with fields across from Las Chepas, was ticked
off over the recent barrier controversy.
"I think it's stupid that they have to redo it," he
said. "Just because technology has changed, now we
want to redraw the line that we agreed on 100 years
There used to be a barbed wire fence where the barrier
now stands and nobody ever complained, Johnson said.
The area received international attention in 2005 when
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson declared a state of
emergency on the state border, especially at Las
Chepas where people smugglers and drug runners
terrorized some residents.
Columbus Police Chief Ernie Sera credited the vehicle
barrier and a recent increase in the number of federal
and state law enforcement officers for making the
U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., sent a letter Friday
to U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner
Ralph Basham asking that the new barrier be built
before the old one is torn down.
"We want to make sure that there's not a gap when
there's no barrier," said Bingaman spokeswoman Maria
It was not known today how much the work will cost,
when it will start or how long it will last.
Louie Gilot may be reached at lgilot@...