Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Horses allow Border Patrol agents to cover areas vehicles are unable to traverse

Horse border patrols in La Grulla, Texas
 (New York Times photo by Todd Heisler)
Along the U.S.-Mexico border in South Texas, where the terrain consists of "shallow riverbanks and craggy trails that are impassable for vehicles," the Border Patrol has been using former wild horses to patrol the border, Ron Nixon reports for The New York Times.

The Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley Sector Horse Unit, formed in 2011, has about 40 horses "obtained from a wild mustang program run by the federal Bureau of Land Management," Nixon writes. "The agency catches horses and turns them over for basic training to inmates at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility in Kansas."

Inmates at Hutchinson have been training horses since 2001, says the Kansas Department of Corrections. The facility has the ability to house up to 499 horses. "Through a cooperative agreement with the BLM, a dozen minimum-custody inmates care and train the wild horses with the goal of making them suitable for adoption. The program also provides inmate work opportunities that help inmates reintegrate back into the community." Each May, the prison holds a horse auction, with sales going to continue the program’s funding. Horses not adopted are transferred to long-term holding locations.

Nixon notes, "Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the U.S. has spent over $100 billion on various border-security technology, including ground sensors, video cameras, walls, layers of fencing and infrared cameras. But in the thicket along the river where smugglers can easily hide, the horse patrol unit plays an essential role in efforts to detect illegal activity." The number of illegal immigrants caught in South Texas has dropped in the past few months from 600 per day to 100, largely because of aggressive enforcement under President Trump and improving conditions in countries people are fleeing.

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