Two former border enforcement officers under the administration of former President George W. Bush testified before the Senate Homeland Security Committee on April 4, asserting that physical barriers between the U.S. and Mexico have been an "integral part" of keeping crime, drugs and unauthorized immigrants out of America.
"We have done much to secure the border, but there is much more to do," said the former acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, David Aguilar, at the hearing, according to Fox News.
The testimonies came just two days before companies will place their final bids on April 6 to design and build President Donald Trump's proposed wall separating the two countries.
The men spoke about the 353 miles of pedestrian fencing and 300 miles of vehicle fencing installed along the border in 2015, which Aguilar said was largely responsible for the apprehension of border crossers to drop from 1.7 million in the 2000 fiscal year to 408,870 in fiscal 2017.
Former Border Patrol deputy chief Ronald Colburn also testified, discussing his time as the chief of the Yuma Border Patrol Sector between southwestern Arizona and southeastern California as well as his involvement in Operation Jump Start to construct a border fence starting in 2006.
After the fencing was installed, Colburn said, attacks from Mexican "border bandits" who attack migrants decreased from more than 200 to zero.
"Yuma became the 'proof of concept' that America can protect and control its border when the proper mix of resources are placed almost instantaneously," Colburn said. "By 2008, Yuma Sector arrests of illicit border crossers and traffickers had dwindled from over 138,000 to 8,363."
He also said that a physical border formed an "integral part" of enforcing laws and helped to mark "our line in the sand."
Still, there are some "challenges," he conceded, citing eminent domain, environmental issues and the fact that the Tohono O'odham native people occupy 75 miles of the border.
Indeed, the multi-billion dollar border wall would traverse through many houses and other landmarks, with some American homes ending up in Mexico and some Mexican ones ending up in America, such as a Texas Trump supporter whose home will be on the Mexico side of the border wall once it is built, according to Raw Story. The woman said she will get a lawyer and fight to keep her home in the U.S.
But to Aguilar, those challenges are worth it.
"The noted issues will have to be taken into consideration, but it is important to note that there is nothing more destructive to environmentally sensitive land and communities than the uncontrolled illegal flow of people, vehicles, smugglers, and criminal organizations," Aguilar said, according to Fox News. "The placement of fences and deterrent infrastructure in previously uncontrolled parts of the border have actually allowed for the rejuvenation of areas that had previously been devastated due to heavy illegal pedestrian and vehicular traffic."