Border Wall in San Diego

Report: Smugglers Crossing U.S.-Mexico Border Have Been Able to Cut Through New Bollards

While the sawing incidents are concerning to border agents, they say that new electronic sensors and the deployment of other resources are making bollard incidents less common.

Smugglers coming to the U.S. through Mexico have been able to repeatedly saw through new sections of the U.S.-Mexico border wall using commercially available power tools, The Washington Post reported Monday.

The issue seems to be that a reciprocating saw equipped with specialized blades is able to cut through some of the barrier’s steel-and-concrete bollards in minutes, according to U.S. agents who spoke to the Post. The types of saws used by the gangs are sold at hardware stores for around $100.

Once the gangs get through the base of a single bollard, they are able to push the steel out of the way and create enough room for people and drug packages to pass through. Engineers told the Post that because the new bollards used at the border are so tall, and attached only to a panel at the top, they are easier to push aside once they have been cut and are dangling.

The U.S. government has not officially disclosed the cutting incidents and security breaches, making it difficult to determine how many times this has happened. U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not provide information about the number of breaches and how the agency is responding to them. CBP has also yet to fulfill a Freedom of Information Act request by the Post for data about the incidents and repairs.

While the cutting incidents are concerning, former and current border patrol officials said the new bollard technology is preferable because damaged areas can be repaired and replaced with ease. The agency is also installing electronic sensors on the bollards that can quickly alert officials to when someone is attempting to saw through the structure.

The new bollard design makes the smugglers’ job much more difficult, especially since only one person can get through at a time even if the gangs are able to break through. In addition, agents say they are advocating for a wrap-around approach to border security, including surveillance technology, physical structures and more personnel.

“The cartels will continue to innovate, and they’re not just going to leave San Diego because the wall gets better,” said Ronald Vitiello, the former border patrol chief and acting director of ICE until April. “The bollards are not the most evolved design; they are the most evolved that we could pay for. We never said they would be an end-all, be-all.”

When asked about the bollard breaches, President Donald Trump told reporters on Saturday that the U.S. was building a “very powerful wall.”

"But no matter how powerful, you can cut through anything, in all fairness,” Trump said, according to the Post. “But we have a lot of people watching. You know cutting, cutting is one thing, but it’s easily fixed. One of the reasons we did it the way we did it, it’s very easily fixed. You put the chunk back in.”

About the Author

Haley Samsel is an Associate Content Editor for the Infrastructure Solutions Group at 1105 Media.

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