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CBP Responds After Nogales Condemns Border Concertina Wire Project

Customs and Border Protection officials took no questions after the city of Nogales passed a resolution Wednesday night condemning the added coils of concertina wire. Early Thursday, the agency’s Arizona arm sent a lengthy statement explaining its rationale for the added wire.

The statement said smugglers were cutting the wire put up in November, so that migrants could climb illegally over the border fence. The agency asked the Pentagon to add more wire, leaving the Nogales border fence festooned in silvery coils resembling giant, sharpened Slinkys.

The city’s council voted to demand the government take it down. CBP wrote in its statement it has no plans to do so and considers Nogales a "high-risk urban area." It’s put up signs warning people of the wire’s presence.

It’s unclear what legal measure the city could take to force the wire’s removal. CBP stated the wire is outside the city’s jurisdiction and on federal government controlled property.

The full statement:

“After receiving a request for assistance from the Secretary of Homeland Security in 2018, the Secretary of Defense provided mission-enhancing capabilities to Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) along the Southwest Border.

The DoD has provided Defense Support of Civil Authorities with planning assistance, engineering support through temporary barriers, barricades, and fencing, as well as fixed and rotary wing aviation support.

Although the current DoD deployment in Tucson Sector is to assist CBP with the installation of two strands of concertina wire began in early November, CBP made a subsequent request for additional support in high-risk urban areas commonly exploited by criminal smuggling organizations. In these concentrated areas, 4 to 6 additional strands of concertina wire are currently being installed. These locations are outside the City of Nogales Charter and on United States Government property.

CBP officials have already seen the effectiveness of the additional strands of wire. Previously, criminal organizations posted individuals on the Mexican side of the border to scout and cut wire installed on the top tier of the fence. Once removed in sections, human smugglers would exploit the opening and send individuals over illegally into the U.S. The new multi-layered wire prevents individuals from using this tactic, and groups of criminals seeking to exploit individuals are gathered on the Mexican side of the barrier much less frequently. This improves safety for the U.S., and prevents injury to those who might otherwise risk going over the structure.

As the situation along the border is always evolving, CBP is constantly evaluating operational needs. Currently there are no plans to remove the concertina wire.

In mid-November, CBP and United States Border Patrol (USBP) leadership met with local law enforcement leaders from Santa Cruz County, to include law enforcement and first responders from Nogales to discuss this operation and the hardening of both the ports of entry (POE) and infrastructure between the POEs. USBP leadership has met with elected officials and law enforcement from the City of Nogales to listen to concerns and explain the current concertina wire deployment and the requirements leading up to this action.

CBP and local law enforcement have a shared mission of public safety. Safety for the public and first responders is of the utmost concern, and as such, several precautionary measures have been put in place.  Public safety fencing has been established in locations where there is major public access and the concertina wire is lower to the ground. Signage in Spanish and English has been put in place warning individuals of these dangers and prohibiting access.  In locations where there is high pedestrian activity, the concertina wire is limited to only the upper portion of the wall. CBP is firmly committed to our overall national security mission, which includes ensuring the safety and security of the traveling public, both documented and undocumented, as well as our law enforcement officers and border communities.  Hardening of current infrastructure specifically in high-risk locations of the urban area help reduce the illicit activity, to include violent criminals, in these areas and increase the public safety.

CBP does not provide statistics on a particular area of the border but rather to areas of responsibility. Please visit CBP.gov for available statistics. Specific questions to the number of military personnel in Arizona and the associated cost should be referred to DoD.”

Fronteras Desk senior editor Michel Marizco is an award-winning investigative reporter based in Flagstaff.