The debate is growing louder about the need for a wall on our southern border with Mexico and President Donald Trump has partially shut down the government until he gets the funding for it.
A retired Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent has some strong feelings about the wall and some concerns about our coastline.
“It’s like a cat and mouse game,” retired ICE agent Dennis McKenna said.
As an ICE agent assigned to the Border Patrol, McKenna tried to stop illegal immigrants trying to enter South Florida. He spent countless nights hiding in bushes near the Juno Beach Pier, waiting for smugglers to drop them off near the beach at night.
“We need the wall desperately,” he said.
McKenna says make no mistake, we need a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border to stop migrants, even if it means spending $6 billion for it.
“Some of them are bringing in viruses and flus that we’ve never seen before ‘cause they’re coming from third world countries,” he said.
McKenna also has some very serious concerns about the southeast Florida coastline.
“From Sebastian to Boynton, every day there’s a landing here," he said. "If it ain’t today, I guarantee you it’s tomorrow morning."
McKenna says small boats of roughly a dozen illegal immigrants come ashore every day. He estimates only about one in 10 boats are even spotted.
The majority slip in unseen.
McKenna says we need surveillance cameras spaced about 1/4 mile apart all the way from Sebastian to Boynton Beach to look for smuggler boats before they get to the beach.
“I think we should get these cameras as soon as possible,” McKenna said.
The cameras would be night vision and heat sensitive to detect boats approaching at night.
McKenna says the cameras will be a deterrent.
“Then the word gets out, 'Hey, comin’ this way is no good,'” he said.
What do some beachgoers think of the camera idea?
“It couldn’t hurt. I mean, I’m for protecting the borders,” said Kathy McMillan, a vacationer from Colombia.
“It probably would be a good idea. Something to think about, you know,” Tequesta resident Linda Pearch said.
McKenna, who retired from ICE in 2012, estimates each year, hundreds of people are getting into the U.S. illegally by entering on our coastline and he feels we need to get more serious about catching them.
“Throughout a year, there’s hundreds of people coming here and it’s being taken very lightly," he said. "And we’re not catching them."
McKenna says he intends to share his idea about surveillance cameras with Congressman Brian Mast to see if he could get funding for this.
He says 350 to 400 cameras would be needed and the cost would easily run several million dollars.