The border wall between Mexico and the United States was breached more than 3,000 times during the past three years, with widely available power tools routinely used to cut through the binational barrier.
The Washington Post obtained unpublished U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) maintenance records that showed that drug and people smugglers sawed through new sections of wall built during the Trump administration 3,272 times between 2019 and 2021.
The CBP records also show that the U.S. government spent US $2.6 million to repair the breaches.
Smuggling gangs typically use inexpensive power tools such as angle grinders and demolition saws to cut through the border wall, the Post said.
“Once the 18-to-30-foot-tall bollards are severed near the ground, their only remaining point of attachment is at the top of the structure, leaving the steel beam dangling in the air. It easily swings open with a push, creating a gap wide enough for people and narcotics to pass through,” the newspaper said, linking to a video of a damaged section of wall.
People familiar with the smugglers’ tactics told the Post that they typically cut through the wall at night, covering themselves with blankets to hide the sparks and reduce noise. Lookouts alert them via radio when there are Border Patrol vehicles in the area.
More than 80% of the breaches during the past three years were detected in California, with over 1,800 in the CBP’s El Centro sector in the Imperial Valley and close to 900 in the San Diego sector.
While Donald Trump’s long-promised, albeit incomplete, wall was breached thousands of times, the Post noted that older mesh style fencing along the border has been even easier to penetrate.
One major breach of the new section in March 2021 allowed two SUVs carrying migrants to enter California. One of the vehicles subsequently hit a truck and 13 people were killed.
While cutting through the wall is common, CBP agents and U.S. ranchers say that climbing over it is now even more frequent. Ladders and ropes help migrants and smugglers climb the barrier and descend safely to the other side.
With reports from The Washington Post