Agents in San Diego Dealing With Little Known Problem Along the Border


Cordless reciprocating saws, known colloquially as a Sawzall, have become the preferred tool of smugglers along the northern border wall in Tijuana, MX.

Border agents from the San Diego sector took me on a tour of an area east of San Ysidro hardest hit by the so-called, ‘express cutters’. They told me within 40 seconds a smuggler can cut a hole in the steel mesh fence large enough to squeeze through – sometimes, the smugglers will use an ax, which can damage a section large enough to get through within 90 seconds.

(A patchwork of repairs over the cuts into the mesh) – photo by Steve Gregory

The mesh fencing is part of a 13 mile secondary barrier to the primary wall. The secondary fence was built in the late 90’s after numerous attacks on agents. The fence covers the most densely populated area to the east and west of the San Ysidro port of entry.

Most of the time agents get to the scene before people get through, and those who make it are usually caught within a few miles of the fence. After agents are made aware of a cut, also known as a compromise, repairs are done within 24 hours. Repairs usually involve welding a larger patch of steel mesh over the cut which fortifies the area.

(An agent shows me a spot where a cordless saw was used to cut the fence) - photo by Steve Gregory

The San Diego sector patrols 60 linear miles of the border wall/fence. The primary wall is being replaced with stronger steel bollards with a diamond spike design on the top. The secondary fence only exists along the busiest areas.


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