Portions of the border barrier east of San Diego were torn down this month in suspected smuggling incidents, prompting U.S. Border Patrol agents to call for a stronger barrier.
In both cases, BP said the suspects brought down the barrier and drove trucks filled with undocumented workers into the U.S. near Campo, about 40 miles east of San Diego.
The barriers along much of the border in this area are made of surplus military landing mats. The metal mats are welded together but are not anchored to the ground.
One veteran Border Patrol officer said it’s not difficult to tear them down.
“The smugglers tie a chain to (the barrier), hook it to their vehicle and just break the welds,” said Joshua Wilson, vice-president of the local chapter of the National Border Patrol Council.
Wilson described much of the East County barrier as “basically a hodge-podge of welded parts."
The first incident of the month happened on Feb. 2, when smugglers dislodged a section of the barrier, pushed it down, and ran over it.
BP agents said they found tire tracks leading into the U.S.
The police chief of Tecate, Mexico told NBC 7’s sister station, Telemundo 20, that strong winds had blown down that portion of the border barrier.
On Valentine’s Day, another crossing occurred, according to agents.
BP told NBC 7 that smugglers tore down at least one barrier, drove through the opening, and then propped the barrier back up to conceal the reported illegal entry.
Agents said they learned of the incursion and responded to the scene.
They found an empty pick-up truck abandoned just north of the border opening. The truck had gotten stuck in the mud from recent rains.
BP also found and arrested 24 suspected undocumented immigrants, hiding in the brush nearby.
Wilson said new, bollard-style fencing that is securely anchored into the ground could be a solution to the problem.
"Everywhere we replace that landing-mat style fence with the bollard fencing, we have seen the drive-overs completely stop,” Wilson said. “They aren’t just reduced, they stop, completely.”