"We don't talk about the border wall as just a physical barrier," Ortiz said. "When you talk about resources, you got to start right at the river. We need more boats out there. Then you need more air support. We certainly need 24-7 air support out there."
Ortiz pointed out that CBP at present gets air support based upon available funding and faces "some maintenance challenges."
"But we're really working hard to get our agents as much air support as they possibly can have out there so that way we can have adequate coverage," he said.
"The Rio Grande Valley sector has about 55,000 acres of refuge property on the immediate border area in addition to agriculture, like thick sugar cane and orchard fields, and houses that are right up against the river," he added.
Ortiz noted the agency has observed recently a spike in false claims pertaining to family relationships.
"What will happen quite often, they may even be a cousin or a neighbor of someone, so an adult male or female will travel with an unaccompanied child and claim them as their own," Ortiz said. "Previously if they did have a relationship or weren't able to determine they weren't related, they would get processed and ultimately probably released for an immigration hearing on some later date."
Ortiz also noted that CBP has dispatched officers to Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador to work on Mexico’s southern border and identify potential immigrants to the United States through an interview process.
At present, CBP uses new technology — in addition to cameras systems and sensors — such as the aerial surveillance system Aerostats for which there is funding for an additional year, he said.
Moreover, CBP staff also use biometric and facial recognition technology to identify criminal illegal aliens such as members of the MS-13 and 18th Street gangs, Ortiz also said.
There has been an increase over the last three years — especially after the deployment of Aerostats — in the detection of smuggling loads regardless of whether aliens or narcotics coming across the Rio Grande, Ortiz added.