By AMANDA LEE MYERS
PHOENIX — Rancher Dan Bell has come face to face with drug smugglers on his southeastern Arizona cattle ranch, he has found the bodies of illegal immigrants who died of exposure on his property, and a Border Patrol agent was killed in December about 5 miles from his home.
The 42-year-old has had about enough.
For all the noise and political turmoil and litigation over Arizona’s efforts to draw attention to our broken border and immigration laws, the reality is we’re still getting nowhere.
It is absolutely clear we are not going to see serious efforts to reform our immigration laws until the border is secured.
But outside of those who live in the path of illegal immigration and drug smuggling…Arizona’s ranching community…there is no consensus or plan going forward to define what “securing” the border means and how to do that.
I take media types down to the border and out on the ranches to see what is going on. It is obvious what the problem is. The countryside is rugged. There are few roads. There is no fence. And drugs and illegal immigrants continue to cross into Arizona nightly.
Stationing Border Patrol agents on roads 20..30…60 miles inside Arizona is not going to stop the flow. It can only be stopped right at the border.
It is obvious looking at the countryside…especially west of Nogales…how difficult that task will be.
Environmental groups oppose building roads and fences in what they claim is a wilderness area. The roads and fences will have to be built if we’re really going to secure the rest of the border.
Border Patrol agents are not going to be able to commute from home to their duty stations on a daily basis in much of the remote area. They will have to work from Forward Observation Bases in something that looks a lot more like a military deployment than a police function. More agents will have to ride horses in the back country. It will take a lot of agents to cover some of these areas because the countryside really is rugged and easy for people to sneak through.
We’re also going to have to really crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants.
We’re going to have to increase the penalties for illegal entry and overstaying visas.
We’re going to have to fix our broken visa tracking system.
We need to consider Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations and deal with them in that context.
Arizona’s strategy of trying to make the state a hell for illegal immigrants forget that the reason folks are leaving Mexico is that it is already a form of hell.
People willing to risk their lives walking through the desert really don’t worry a lot about Joe Arpaio. Many are fleeing drug cartel gunmen. Arpaio isn’t shooting at the immigrants with AK 47s (yet).
People in the interior of Arizona can complain about all the alleged evils of illegal immigrants…but the ranchers on the border are on the front line ground zero of the problem with people with automatic weapons running around the canyons down there. Robert Krentz and Brian Terry are not going to be the last victims of the outlawry going on in our borderlands unless the border is secured.
Congress needs to hold some hearings down along the border and see for themselves the situation and the problems. And then stick some specific requirements in appropriations to Homeland Security and the Border Patrol mandating a change in focus so we do not see a lot of Border Patrol agents in Casa Grande and a lot more within a few miles of the border.
Conresspeople need to come down to Dan Bell’s ranch west of Nogales and see first hand what the problem is. The solutions are obvious.