March 4, 2008
SAN LUIS, Ariz (Reuters) – Daily, U.S. Border Patrol agents in this Arizona town faced groups of up to 200 illegal immigrants who would swarm across the border from Mexico, sprinting past the agents to a new life in the United States.
That was until 18 months ago, when the single fence was bolstered by two taller, steel barriers, watched over by video cameras and lit by a blaze of stadium lighting. Now the incursions known by the agents as “Banzai Runs” have all but stopped.
“It was overwhelming,” said agent Andrew Patterson. “This used to be a huge trouble area, now we are almost down to zero.”
The troubled patch of borderlands in this speck of a town in far west Arizona is among many places along the almost 2,000-mile (3,200-km) U.S.-Mexican border that are getting new fencing as part of a U.S. initiative to stem the flow of illegal immigrants.
Washington plans to build 670 miles (1,070 km) of barriers, including pedestrian and vehicle fences, by the end of 2008. So far, more than 300 miles (480 km) have been built, and the government is pushing hard in this election year to finish them, as mandated by the U.S. Congress.