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Thursday, September 19, 2013 - 6:56pm
El Paso, TX (KDBC) — It has been 20 years since the face of our border dramatically changed. “Operation Hold the Line” was enacted in 1993. “Operation Hold the Line” was widely criticized when it was first implemented. Now, it has been recognized as one of the reasons El Paso is considered the safest city of its size.
The scene at the border more than 20 years ago was chaotic as waves of people rushed across the border illegally. "We are no longer waiting to see how many people come into the border come into the State's illegally,” Ramiro Cordero, a Border Patrol Agent with the El Paso Sector said. Times have changed, El Pasoans reflect on what the Sun City was like before operation hold the line was adopted. "People used to get robbed, vehicles were stopped by criminal elements from the Southside.”
"You give somebody a little bit of money and you can sit on the tube and they would help you cross the river,” Jose Manuel Escobedo with the Border Network for Human Rights told us. "Those days are gone."
20 years have passed since the operation changed El Paso Border Patrol's ideology. "We've learned that it's a cooperative effort that brings us security to the borders and to the cities that we live in,” Cordero explained. Agents used to focus their energies on finding and deporting undocumented immigrants." You're looking at apprehensions back in those days upwards of 280,000 a year.”
Since September 19, 1993, they're now focused on prevention Border Patrol agents now line the banks of the Rio Grande looking for potential threats. "We're actually doing our jobs at the river's edge here in El Paso."
This has changed the way the border operates and some say it's not all positive. Many complain of longer lines at the border.
"Created more divisions between the El Paso/Juarez community. Where there is so much interconnection commercially, culturally,” Escobedo explained. But on the other hand it has also created a safer community.