Michael Corey writes of his experience attempting to obtain information about the exact extent of the series of fences that makes up the infamous U.S.-Mexico border fence. The project grew out of the Borderland storytelling project that the Center for Investigative Reporting undertook with NPR.
“Journalists at CIR have been trying for more than three years to obtain accurate, detailed mapping data showing the location of the border fence system. The fences – it's more accurate to say there are many – have cost taxpayers many millions of dollars and are key pieces of border security infrastructure. They're also a potent symbol that chafes at our Mexican neighbors.”
The task of finding the data proved more difficult than expected. “We filed several Freedom of Information Act requests with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and after several appeals, we received limited data showing where individual fence segments start and end. But we were told repeatedly that the actual lines showing the details of the fence segments were sensitive law enforcement information that could give away secrets to drug cartels, illegal border crossers or terrorists.”
Through no small amount of perseverance, and old-fashioned, gum shoe Google Earth exploration, Corey states what his team has achieved: “The result: We now have what is – as far as we know – the most complete and detailed map of the border fence system that is publicly available.” The map is in OpenStreetMap, and the article also has Google Earth images showing how difficult the fence is to track across the terrain of the American Southwest.