Immigration and Naturization Service officials said Wednesday that the agency is studying the possibility of building several miles of concrete barricades or other "impediments" to prevent illegal aliens from driving across the border amid the isolated, flat terrain that separates much of Tijuana from San Diego County.
The area, policed by the San Diego sector of the Border Patrol, accounted for more than one-third of the 1.7 million illegal aliens arrested along the border last year.
In addition, authorities are considering the reinforcement of the notoriously porous fence that stretches from the Pacific eastward along the border to the San Ysidro border station in San Diego County. The fence is full of holes.
"I don't really think we have a meaningful fence," said Harold Ezell, INS western regional commissioner.
Ezell predicted that the proposal for reinforcing the border fences and constructing new barricades will be a reality by this fall. He said Mexican officials would also be consulted. There was no estimate on the cost of the project, which Ezell said is being studied and will be submitted to Washington within the month. Ezell defended the plan as part of an overall strategy of border enforcement.
"The barriers in themselves are not going to do the job," said Ezell, citing an increased Border Patrol presence and implementation of the new national immigration law as other components in the strategy. "It's all part of an overall effort to get some control on the borders."
The proposal was immediately greeted with guffaws by groups that often represent undocumented immigrants and have long been critical of federal officials' asserted desire to "militarize" the U.S.-Mexico border.
"It's ludicrous," said Herman Baca, chairman of the Committee on Chicano Rights, a San Diego group that monitors immigration issues. "We don't need a Berlin Wall. . . . You can't expect to stop illegal immigration without getting at the root causes."