Borderlands a war zoneby Hugh Holub on Dec. 17, 2010, under border issues, drug smuggling, politics
Arizona’s border with Mexico is a war zone in case you haven’t figured that out.
The recent killing of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry brings national attention to a reality that border residents have been living with for a long time.
Though the feds have been less than communicative about the specifics of the battle between Border Patrol agents west of Rio Rico on December 14th, there is a lot of local speculation that Terry was shot by border bandits.
There are a number of distinct activities going on in the borderlands that put Border Patrol agents and area residents in harms way.
We have the nightly flood of illegal immigrants crossing into the US seeking work and to join their families already in the US. This has morphed into a highly organized criminal activity with “coyotes”…people who get paid to bring illegal immigrants into the US….being paid to cross folks. Once delivered to safe houses in Tucson or Phoenix the balance of their “fee” is paid…and if not..the immigrants are held hostage. At around $2,000 a person…there is big money going down in the people smuggling business.
Then we have the drug cartels smuggling drugs into the US. Often protected by armed guards carrying automatic weapons, the caravans of drug mules (sometimes illegal entrants pressed into service as mules) have a nasty reputation of shooting at anyone that interferes with their smuggling efforts. Reports from area ranchers have cartel spotters sitting on mountaintops with radio phones to help guide the loads of dope around Border Patrol agents.
Then we have the bandits. There are groups of people…who many believe are actually US residents…preying on illegal immigrants and drug smugglers. Illegal immigrants are exposed to serious risk of rape and robbery while crossing into the US by the bandits. Prosecuting the bandits has been almost impossible because the victims face deportation if they come forward, and by the time they reach a point where they can seek help, the bandits are long gone.
Terry and the group of agents he was working with reportedly were out in one of the more bandit infested areas (Peck Canyon) seeking to stop the banditry. This effort really emphasizes the good work the Border Patrol is trying to accomplish…even though the illegal immigrants have violated the law by crossing into the US…that doesn’t entitle anyone to harm these folks.
The murder of Terry spotlights the degree to which the bandits are really nasty folks…right up there with the drug cartel goons running around our borderlands.
Then we have heavily armed neo-Nazi militia groups out there, such as recently spotted around Sasabe.
Going over to the Mexican side of the border, there are many reports that the drug and people smuggling cartels have seized control of large areas of Sonora, especially around El Sasabe. As reported here last Spring, the cartel attacked a ranch west of Nogales on the Mexican side and killed one of the cowboys on that ranch.
Visiting the homes of borderland residents, it is not uncommon to find rifles leaning up next to doors. Riding around the borderland with area ranchers, their trucks include weapons. Not that a Winchester 94 is any match for an AK 47… but having some firepower gives comfort.
Federal officials keep citing statistics about how much dope is being seized and how many illegal immigrants are being caught…claiming the border is more secure than it has ever been. Borderland residents do not agree. They live daily with the threat of being attacked by bandits or cartel goons.
The fact that large stretches of the border do not have a fence, and that Border Patrol agents are not concentrated at the border, leaves the US open to invasion by cartel smugglers. The bandits roam freely in the area.
Borderland residents have been demanding and pleading for years for the US government to secure the border at the border, and not rely on the cat and mouse game of trying to catch illegal entrants and drug smugglers after they have crossed into the US. Take one look at the countryside west of Nogales and you will see how extraordinarily difficult it is to root anyone out of the canyons in the area.
Instead of trying to catch illegal immigrants and drug smugglers after they have crossed into the US, many borderland residents want the US government to prevent illegal entry and drug smuggling right at the line.
Why that seems to be resisted by the US government is a mystery to borderlands residents. Sure, we know this is going to be difficult and costly mission. We’d all rather that people would not be motivated to cross or border for whatever reason. But the fact is the money involved is so significant, people will take the risk, and they will protect their interests by shooting at us.
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