With Mile-by-Mile Analysis / by Karie Luidens

2019-01-31 - ABQ Journal.jpg

Torres Small favors ‘carefully placed’ border barriers based on detailed plan

Published: Thursday, January 31st, 2019

One of New Mexico’s newest members of Congress, Democratic Rep. Xochitl Torres Small is often painted as an advocate of open borders, but on Thursday she stressed that is not the case.

Torres Small represents New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District, which shares about 180 miles of its southern border with Mexico. Physical barriers, she said, make sense when they are strategically placed.

In an interview about her new committee assignments in Congress, she also discussed border issues. She will chair the Subcommittee on Oversight, Management and Accountability for the Committee on Homeland Security, and will sit on the House Armed Services Committee.

About 65 percent of New Mexico’s border with Mexico “already has a physical barrier of some kind,” Torres Small said. And they can be effective when they have been “carefully placed, based on a detailed plan about where it makes the most sense.” [...]

Regarding barriers on the border, Torres Small said, “I’m very grateful to have had the experience of living and working on the border. I started working for Sen. (Tom) Udall right after the first fence or physical barrier was put up. When that happened, I talked to Customs and Border Patrol about how it was done, and it was done very carefully.

“I’ve seen places where a physical barrier works, because they divide the terrain based on the time it takes for someone avoiding detection to disappear, whether it’s in a car or into urban populations. In some places, it is seconds to minutes, in other places it is minutes to hours, and in places like the New Mexico bootheel, it can be hours to days.”

That’s why it’s important to design and place walls according to the terrain.

“We’ve seen that barriers really work to delay people from crossing; so if it delays someone 20 minutes, that makes a big difference in an urban area where you can get an agent there quickly to interdict them,” she said. “But when it takes days to cross a desert, that 20 minutes doesn’t do a whole lot of good.”

The last time Congress passed legislation about physical barriers, “it was based on a detailed plan about how it would be implemented on the ground, with mile-by-mile analysis,” she said. “So just throwing out a number and saying you want to build physical barriers isn’t enough to create real border security.”

Ranchers in New Mexico’s remote Bootheel recently told the Journal they support barriers along the border, especially in light of the large groups of migrants illegally crossing by simply stepping over low fencing in recent months.