Border Patrol Chief In San Diego Discusses Border Wall Replacement Project
>> Jean Guerrero recently set down with Rodney Scott who is the chief of the border patrol San Diego sector. She asked how the construction of the border replacement project is expected to change things along the US-Mexico border. >> I also wanted to ask you about the border wall replacement project currently underway. How will that change things? >> I think it will improve our environment dramatically. We have been experimenting with different types of barriers and enforcement methods since the 1990s when Bill Clinton initiated operation gatekeeper. We've taken those lessons and the benefits that we've got and incorporated that into the design for the border wall. What I mean is by using scrap metal falling down today and a wire mesh fence which can be defeated with battery-operated power tools, we were able to increase safety and security. For all of those lessons it's time to build something to last. The secondary was mesh. Those are getting cut an average of 3.5 times a day and breached 3.5 times a day. It doesn't meet every day. It may go three or four without a cut and then maybe 50 or 60 overnight and we are using-- losing significance amounts of traffic there. The new wall is a combination of concrete and steel which will be very hard to get across. It's going to slow anybody down significantly and give us more of a personnel savings. It will be more aesthetically pleasing but I think it's going to make a big difference. >> The stretch being torn down is the stretch that have become iconic on the Mexican side because there have been activists placing crosses who have died and there are some who say it is essentially a race the identities of these people and create further deaths by continuing to reroute traffic into other areas. What does border patrol have to say? >> The infrastructure that we put on the border does not reroute traffic. The smugglers reroute traffic. The allegation of the deaths in the deserts, we have a significant group out in the remote areas looking for people that smugglers have put into danger but nobody wanders into the Arizona desert or sections of the California desert by themselves to try to cross the border. Smugglers are intentionally taking people out there. We have a systematic process where we do debriefs of alien groups to where we tried to map out terminal organizations bringing people into those remote areas. That's a big target. In areas where you have big population centers, you don't get any warning about who is crossing the fence. We have to have personnel ready to deploy in seconds before people can disappear to the shopping centers or get into the trolleys. Border barriers are more effective or important. It is important everywhere but as you triage were to do it first those are critical areas. >> There have been some questions about why the administration was starting out by replacing fencing that already exist instead of making the fencing longer. You are telling me that the priority are the urban areas because it's so much harder to control? >> We do what we call a C gap. The 20 Chiefs of the border patrol are responsible for doing a threat assessment. We try to figure out where we have vulnerabilities. San Diego because of the massive population centers the threat is significantly more. We also layer other threats that I cannot talk about here. The intelligence threats and what we are facing, that gets layered on an international level which is where-- which is how we prioritize where we put personnel. The process informed us that the infrastructure is a routing. We were starting to risk losing those if offenses started to fall or we had materials that are so easy to cut. >> There have been an increased amount of calls to abolish the internal immigration agency which has led to rallies. Is there anything border patrol wants to say about these calls? >> I'm not going to address that specifically. A lot is based off of this information but what I can tell you is that border security is a government approach. You cannot have a single line which is part of why we have the problem that we have today. Border patrol and customs and border protection, the minute they got past us they are home free. In some states they are encouraged to come to that location and told they are protected. That causes huge problems and long-term issues that I think we could avoid. >> The associated press reported that arrests were at the lowest level since February. Is that something we are seeing here? >> I cannot comment on the national numbers. Here in San Diego our numbers were 100% higher. Over the year they are about to-- 42% higher but that is misleading because in the first few months the numbers were fairly low. We've seen anywhere from a doubling to tripling over the last several months. >> What is behind the increase? >> That's a great question. Immigration is very dynamic. There are many factors. I would be speculating but I will say that's a big part of what we do. We look at civil unrest and messaging of our leadership in certain parts of the country. I find it ironic that hours are significantly higher than some of the other parts of the country and we have a state that has decided to be a sanctuary state and encouraged people to come here. I cannot say definitively that's not-- that's the only reason but I say that's part of it. >> Mexicans President-elect says he will not stop Central Americans trying to get to the US unlike other presidents because he says he wants to respect people's right to seek asylum. How might the situation at the border change as a result of that? Is border patrol expecting any change? >> I think time will tell. I like to stay out of the politics as much as I can. We will have a little bit of time before he takes office. I want to highlight that our relationship is much better than you would think if all you did was watch media reports. We have a fantastic relationship with Mexico. I think once he sits down with leadership and they start have briefings to bring him up to speed about the dialogue and trying to improve the safety and security of the entire hemisphere, I think is going to be surprised at some of the work going on and he may or may not change his tone. >> Thank you so much for joining us. >> Rodney Scott the chief of the border patrol San Diego sector.
Construction is underway to replace a 14-mile stretch of border fencing between the U.S.-Mexico border in San Diego County.
Customs and Border Protection has called it one of the Border Patrol's "top priority projects." The existing barrier will be replaced with a taller concrete barrier.
How is the project expected to change border security in San Diego County and could the project push illegal immigration further into the desert?
Rodney Scott, chief patrol agent with the Border Patrol's San Diego sector, discusses the status of the project with KPBS Fronteras reporter Jean Guerrero.