The U.S. Border Patrol will poison plant life along a 1.1-mile stretch of the Rio Grande riverbank as soon as tomorrow to get rid of the hiding places used by smugglers, robbers, and illegal immigrants, the Houston Chronicle reports. If successful, the $2.1 million pilot project could later be duplicated along as many as 130 miles of river in the patrol's Laredo Sector, as well as other parts of the U.S.-Mexico border. Federal officials say the chemical is safe for animals; detractors say the experiment is reminiscent of the Vietnam War-era Agent Orange chemical program and raises questions about long-term effects.
“We don't believe that is even moral,” said Jay Johnson-Castro Sr. of the Rio Grande International Study Center, located at Laredo Community College, adjacent to the planned test area. “It is unprecedented that they'd do it in a populated area,” he said. Criminals have grown adept at using the dense foliage to elude capture, said one official. Should the Border Patrol project prove efficient, cane removal could become part of its arsenal of tools that have been used along the U.S.-Mexico border, including walls, fencing, and look-out towers.