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The Fence, Precursor To The Wall … From Ground Zero

May 4th, 2017 · Tags:Politics


When you get on a plane, you are instructed that in the event of a mid-air incident you should place the oxygen mask over the face of children and infants first, and then take care of yourself, right?

Well, wrong of course!  You must help yourself to help others. I thought that was an original analogy for the immigration issue the first time I used it a few years ago, but I have seen a few others using it as well to explain why we must take care of The United States first.  IF we don’t remain viable, then the rest of the world will suffer … tremendously.

I can’t think of a better reason to improve and safeguard our borders, as well as regulate who enters the greatest country in the history of the world — than to ensure we can continue to lead and help on a greater scale.  If you don’t think desirables and undesirables are entering The U.S. illegally at an epidemic pace, do more research.

Here’s another example, from the land of tree-huggerdom.  IF you use up the forest, there will be no trees left. No more oxygen.  By the same logic, if you use up the resources of a great nation unwisely, the nation will suffer … and then there will be a domino effect worldwide.

And to say that we can’t stop the flow at the border, so “give it up” is to say, “We can’t stop cancer, so everyone smoke.”

Most Americans have no problems with people coming into this country … as long as it is done in an intelligent, “preservationist” manner.

I bet  your ancestors — like half of mine — stood in line at Ellis Island and spouted out American history footnotes before earning the right to immigrate.  (The “other half” of mine came over to fire a cannon for The French general who helped revolutionaries break away from the British tyrants … so he didn’t have to pass a geography test.) I digress …

Another example … IF two potential immigrants of equal ability, equal needs, equal desire to live in America attempt to get in … wouldn’t you want the one who went the extra mile and “did their homework” and completed the legal process.  Doesn’t that tenacity indicate a little more potential?  Given the authority, you would choose the most prepared applicant in any employment situation … wouldn’t you?

In my other profession — disaster recovery — I have worked with people from all over Latin America on “the dirty gig.”  As far as I know, the majority if not all have legally immigrated or have temporary work “papers.”  In this group, I have met some of the most interesting, resourceful, moral, courageous, tenacious people ever.  They have done their homework and done the right thing and seen the potential for full citizenship as a lofty objective, not a given.  They are to be commended.

Being an American should mean something.  People who want to be a part of this grand idea should be allowed to apply and earn the right to become a part of it.

On the other hand … let’s not even get into the fact that people hoping to enter the country for handouts will logically skew the voter rolls in favor of the party that gives the most handouts.  Anyone who doesn’t think this political strategy is a major push by one party is lucky to be sounding out the words typed on this screen.



Now … what this is all leading up to is the border issue.  Most of the smartest people I know realize and support the effort to strengthen our southern border … build the wall in the semantics of the day.  On the other hand, a few of the smartest people I know beg to differ … which is beyond me.  I have seen intelligent people — on “the other side of the fence” who are so wrapped up in their emotions — they post some of the most ridiculous propaganda in social media against the common sense of a border.

So, I thought why not take a moment to look at this issue at ground zero.  Call it a fence or a wall … it’s a barrier … and the effort to greatly ratchet up its protection dates back to the Clinton administration and before.  (There are people who don’t know or perhaps admit this.)

An interesting post from an anonymous source on Facebook:

“Media can’t have it both ways. It’s okay to building a wall (fence) between Mexico and the U.S. under Obama but not under Trump. Nothing Trump ever does will be reported as a good decision by this media blitz that is going to make him pay for winning the election against all their inaccurate reporting.”

Despite decades of “the wall” we are still so vulnerable. I personally have walked across the border at a point where the Rio Grande is but a stream down near Del Rio … no sweat. (You can bet good guys and bad guys up on the cliffs of either side with binoculars had the situation under control.)

There’s even a conspiracy contingent who think drone surveillance of the border is merely a ploy to spy on the people already here:)



Hmmm … how to take a closer look at the issue??? Well, it just so happens a friend works “in the trenches” of the border war. He has worked to secure the border for years — Justin Sharp.  He’s seen it all — and in trading notes with him — it seems the thing he sees most of the time is the criminal element trying to thwart his efforts.

Most of you have heard of the ruthless “coyotes” — human traffickers who take the money of desperate immigrants and then turn them loose in a remote U.S. location with barely a chance to survive, much less successfully immigrate.  Sharp has seen lots of drug runner activities too. And obviously beyond the scope of his eye-witness account, there’s the most lethal threat … In a post-9/11 world, there is no better way to attack The U.S. than through the open back door.  Crazy that this is even a debate!

An ABC affiliate in Arizona reported: “Arizona’s border with Mexico stretches for 362 miles. Today, 306 of those miles have some kind of barrier, leaving only 56 miles with just barbed wire, or no fence at all.”

Another source states 700 miles of border fencing had already been completed along the country’s nearly 2,000-mile border with Mexico, much of it during Barack Obama’s presidency, as part of the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which was signed by George W. Bush.

The militarization of the border was conceived by a Latino, an El Paso sector chief in the ’90s under a Democratic administration — “Operation Hold The Line.”

It is common sense to tighten up your points of vulnerability.

Sharp is building the portion of the barrier separating Arizona and Mexico.  Either side of this political fence might benefit from a closer look … so we had a brief discussion. From his comments, it is not a stretch to see some futility in a fence concept when a more impermeable wall is needed.

Enough pontificating … Let’s just get to the Q & A format:

Q: What is the specific goal or purpose of the project in which you are involved?

Sharp: “The main purpose of the fence was to stop illegal drugs and human smuggling.That didn’t work out but did slow it down some but illegal trafficking is still going strong.”

Q: Background details?What is the project?  How long in progress? Your role?  How many workers?  Who? (AZ?)

Sharp: “The ‘fence’ runs from Brownsville,Texas to San Diego, Calif. covering approximately 1,800 miles of U.S./Mexican border. Original construction started eight years ago and is only about 10-15 percent complete. I don’t know how many of Border Construction staff were involved initially and there are only 10 of us ‘Roughneck’ division crew now to cover the Arizona section.  I’m the ‘chief cook, bottle washer and bitch master.’ One really cool BP (Border Patrol) agent told me one time I should have been a USMC gunney/drill sarge the way I was barking/bitching/pissin and moanin’ one day. It wasn’t at my crew because they know what to do without being told … but because of some ‘peach-fuzz’ BP agents not being able to read a GPS unit/chew gum/walk/talk and still give us the correct coordinates. Its safe to assume I was beyond pissed off because we lost half a day finding the correct area.”


Fence cacti

Q: How did you land in this role?

Sharp: “The Roughnecks parent company bid six years ago to get the maintenance contract and an extension has just been signed but they didn’t tell me how long yet.”

Q: How many miles have you covered?

Sharp: “We cover about 450 miles of the Arizona border from New Mexico to ‘Californicated’ but will go help Texas, New Mexico and ‘Californicated’ if need be, and they will come in to help us.”

Fence over under

Q: Describe a section of the wall?  Below ground too?  How high?  Materials?

Sharp: “What the fence is composed of varies on location and terrain. It can be steel/concrete inside reinforced columns to simple ‘Normandy barriers’ or cable strung out to slow down vehicle traffic. Some areas you can find only a double- to five-strand ‘barbwire’ fence.Normandy bestJPGThat only keeps cattle where they belong but does nothing for the other two-, four-, six- or no-legged ‘varmits.’ The columns are generally 6x6x1/4 square tubing concreted down to about 4-6′ set 4-6″ apart and filled with concrete. The height varies depending on location but averages 18′. In some areas they are 8′ apart and the gap is filled with material similar to what is used on a grill/shopping cart … but a hell of a lot heavier and doubled up and the sheets are set 90 degrees off so you end up with 1/2”-square hole ‘mesh’. Where ‘flood’ gates are,12″ I-beam  steel is used as the supporting structure and 6″ square tubing forms the gate itself. There are 68 of varying sizes in the Ajo sector alone. The ‘Normandy barriers’ are made up of old RR rails welded together and sometimes just a single rail welded to 6x6xwhatever depth plus 3-4′ above ground columns concreted in.The cable part is 3/4 and strung like you would a hot wire for cattle with those posts about 15-20′ apart. In the Naco sector, aircraft landing mat is used running about a mile out both ways from the port of entry, then the ‘mesh’ starts up. The Nogales and Douglas sectors are all columns until about four miles out each way and then the ‘mesh’ starts for about three miles then the ‘Normandy barriers’ for four, then the cable/‘barbwire’ finishes it out.”



Q: How long to build a section?

Sharp: “I don’t know how long it took on the original construction per section but we can spend just a few hours or several days to weeks making repairs.”

Q: Are you in repair/maintenance mode, or building new fence too?

Sharp: “Mostly we’re maintenance/repair but new construction/modifcations are also on the list. Two years ago Naco got five new ‘flood’ gates during the ‘monsoon season.’ We spent more time clearing debris on a daily basis than building the gates. Nogalas got 300′ of new fence to replace what was knocked down by flooding caused by debris build up because no gates were included in the design. That little project took three months to complete mostly because of weather and lack of skilled people who didn’t think they should be the boss. I fired several know-it-alls on that job. I don’t know yet what the new construction will consist of but it will be better than the ‘Normandies’ and wire.”


Fence gate

Q: How will this fit into the overall plan for a wall of the entire border?

Sharp: “The overall idea is to make the border impenetrable for smugglers but that will never happen. What we’re doing now is trying to raise the level of difficulty for the smugglers as high as possible, short of having manned-gun towers every quarter of a mile like on Mexico’s southern border.”

 Q: What type of damage or sabotage have you seen?

Sharp: “It’s normal to see where the fence has been cut by saws, cutting torches or bolt cutters. In some more remote areas you can find where they pushed or pulled sections down or just blown it up outright. In some places, they have built ramps to jump a vehicle over but most times it fails.”


Fence cut


The Drug Catapult

Q: What type of tunnels or clever schemes to get over/under/through have you seen?

Sharp: “Now its getting fun … he-he. Some tunnels are just simple construction running about 100-200′ long and a diameter of 24-36″ about 6-10′ underground level. Others are more elaborate — way more. They run anywhere from 400′-3/4 mile between buildings or storage sheds complete with lights, ventilation, old school rail systems that were used in mines and elevators at each end. Pack animals are the norm in the harder to reach areas even for dirt bikes or quads. Ultralights make it over and drop their loads but the BP generally has it before the runners can get to it. Trailer mounted catapults and air cannons are used but not as effective because of the range limitations. The newest method is using the sewer systems. And that’s just the methods I’ve seen. Its a chess game trying to figure out how they will strike next.”

Fence in town

Q: Can you tell any stories you have seen regarding the “coyotes” and how they prey on these poor people and drop them in the wilderness, with promises of a better life?  I would think you have probably seen some pitiful sights. …

Sharp: “The only humans I’ve had contact with were in bad shape and came to us for medical help. Basically, like you said, the ‘coyotes’ get them across the border and then ran back into Mexico leaving them with little water or food if any. I haven’t had any contact with the  actual dope smugglers but I have seen their spotters watching us watching them. Communication … there is, possible by hand signals which consist of the universal ‘hello finger’ and kiss my ass. Once we made a sign that said ‘Fria Cervesa Aqui Gratis’ – ‘free cold beer here.’ No takers. A Mexican border agent that we talked to once in a while said we should have said ‘we had hot women and cold beer.’ He’s one of the cool and  honest ones.”

Q: Do you think in that area you see more activity of coyotes bringing in “innocent” illegals, or more smuggling activity?

Sharp: “Smuggling is down some — using ‘coyotes’ — but going it alone or packing into car trunks is still heavy. I only have what the agents say to go by.”

Q: Where is your section/project?

Sharp: “I’m based out of the Tucson/Nogalas sector.”

Q: Additional information?

It’s uncommon, but has happened … to get shot at from the air. Three years ago a helicopter with Mexico markings was in U.S. airspace and started shooting and claimed they were shooting at smugglers and spotters. They were the smugglers and spotters. Nobody on the ground was hurt but some equipment took some hits.”


Thanks JS! … know what I sayin?

* Photos courtesy of Justin Sharp