The scouts are equipped with powerful telescopes and sophisticated communications technology. Dever said Border Patrol agents know they are there, but won’t root them out. And with full-time scouts watching the border, crossings in broad daylight are on the increase.
The fence itself, where there is one, is unlike the razor wire-topped steel barriers erected to keep convicts inside their prisons. It’s uneven, inconsistent, and in places put together with scrap metal from past wars.
“You notice anything odd about the placement of that metal sheeting?” Dever asked, pointing to the horizontal placement of some corrugated scraps. The way builders had carelessly laid it actually facilitated an easier climb upward.
Farther down was a stretch of so-called “no-climb fencing,” a design supposedly engineered to prevent any kind of crossing. Dever said a skeptical Naco resident decided to test it, and brought a group of teenage boys and girls to attempt the climb.
Everyone made it, and made it quickly. The boys averaged just 14 seconds, and the girls just 23.
Cameras line the border fencing, but Dever said they do not always prove useful. “Often there’s just one person watching 30 screens,” he said. “There’s bound to be fatigue.”
He recalled how Fox News Channel host Bill O’Reilly once asked him why U.S. authorities “just don’t build a fence and be done with it.” The solution, he said, won’t be found in comprehensive fences alone — but in better guardianship of the fences we have.
“The Great Wall of China only worked as well as it did because it was well-guarded with outposts and consistent communication,” Dever said.
Note: This article was updated after publication to reflect that Border Patrol agents’ labor union does not directly set their work schedules. Sheriff Dever has told TheDC that he takes responsibility for the misunderstanding.