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Oops! U.S. border barrier partly in Mexico

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.elpasotimes.com/breakingnews/ci_6227673 Oops! U.S. border barrier partly in Mexico By Louie Gilot / El Paso Times Article Launched: 06/25/2007
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 25, 2007
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      http://www.elpasotimes.com/breakingnews/ci_6227673

      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
      Columbus, N.M.

      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
      spokeswoman.

      "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
      ago."

      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
      region safer.

      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
      Najera.

      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@..., 546-6131.
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