A helicopter flies by patrolling the grounds from the skies while SUVs are stationed around border towns. Yet many complain about the destruction illegal immigrants and federal agents reek on private property.
They break waterlines, pipelines and fences, a heavy price ranchers like John Ladd have to pay. But despite the decrease in illegal crossings along Southern Arizona and the large numbers of resources border patrol possess, many ranchers like Ladd say it isn't enough to keep them safe from destruction.
"I spend 50 percent of my time fixing stuff that illegal immigrants tear up," Ladd said. He spends an estimated $15,000 annually on repairs that could damage his livelihood. Broken pipes spill water, sometimes without Ladd's knowledge, costing him money, time and his cattle. But illegal immigrants aren't the only people to blame, according to Ladd.
Heavy trafficking of drugs and illegal immigrants in the Tucson Sector of the border could spark changes in border security, igniting a stir from local ranchers and citizens from both Douglas and Tucson.
Rep. Ron Barber released an extensive study of border patrol strategies and use of resources at his briefing in Douglas on Jan. 28 and in Tucson the following evening. The focus is on the Tucson Sector, which includes all of Southern Arizona to Mexico, with the exception of Yuma, and encompasses 13 percent of the whole border.
"I think some areas of the border are more secured in the sense that ilegal traffic is reduced to a dramatic level," Barber said on Monday, "I'm not talking about the people that come here to work; I'm talking about the cartels that fuel the billion dollar industry."
Tombstone residents and the nation were reminded of border agents’ potentially life-threatening jobs this week and the issues surrounding border security.
A U.S. Border Patrol agent was shot and killed Tuesday when checking a triggered ground sensor near Bisbee, officials said.
Nicholas Ivie, 30, was with two other agents when unidentified gunmen began shooting at them, killing Ivie and injuring another agent. The third agent was not shot and the injured agent was airlifted to a Tucson hospital where he was treated and is in stable condition, according to a press release from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
NOGALES, Sonora— After 20 minutes of climbing a dusty, rocky trail on a steep gradient, the orange truck finally reached the summit of Diamond Mountain.
“Here is the beauty of Nogales,” said Rafael Camacho, the head of Grupo Beta Nogales, as he and another agent Leocadio Velázquez stepped out to survey the terrain.
Holding vigil at a mountain summit, Grupo Beta continues in the mission of helping migrants as it has for 21 years, following their motto of “vocation, humanitarianism and loyalty.” Beta’s mission of assistance aims at saving lives caught in the middle.
SB 1083, a bill funding the Arizona State Guard, was passed through the Senate Appropriations Committee. The law would allow for an annual budget of $1.4 million to be taken annually from the “Gang and Immigration Team Enforcement Mission Border Security” fund. There would be an additional $500,000 taken from the general fund this year. The bill calls for an armed Arizona State Guard, outside federal control, to patrol the border with Mexico.
The legislation also allows the Guard to accept “unconditional gifts, grants or devises from any public or private source.“
Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., has come out in opposition to the bill in a press release saying that the legislation is “not just silly and irresponsible, it’s a public safety threat.”
In response, state Sen. Sylvia Allen (R-Snowflake), one of the sponsors of the bill, responded with her own press release that said, “Grijalva can spin his opposition any way he likes, but Arizonans know that we have a huge problem here with drug cartels, allied with terrorists, smuggling drugs and terrorizing the inhabitants of this state.”
There are some victims of the U.S.-Mexico border problems who have been largely ignored.
The Sonoran Pronghorn, which resembles the antelope, once had a range that spread across Arizona, Sonora and California. But migratory patterns of animals have changed since work began on the border wall in Arizona, leading to a decline in their population. The pronghorn is now confined to three small populations in Southwest Arizona and Sonora and is on the federal endangered species list.
According to Dan Millis, program coordinator for theSierra Clubs Borderlands Campaign, such problems have been “brought to Arizona through policies of militarization.”
“There are a lot of folks who have a knee-jerk reaction,” Millis continues, “and think the border just looks like a couple of football fields with sand dunes. They think they can just build a wall and solve the problem.”
Plans are being finalized for the withdrawal of 560 armed National Guard troops deployed to Arizonain October to assist in securing the border, according to National Guard officials.
Major General Hugo Salazar, adjutant general of the Arizona National Guard, told members of a U.S. House subcommittee on border and maritime security last month that the plans for the troops to leave the posts along the border where they have assisted Border Patrol as part of Operation Phalanx are progressing. Salazar said all National Guard operations associated with Operation Phalanx are slated to end in June.
"Throughout the duration of Operation Phalanx, the Arizona National Guard has supported the Department of Homeland Security in a commendable manner and the working relationship between National Guard and Law Enforcement has been nothing short of exemplary," Salazar told the subcommittee. "To complete all administrative and logistical actions required, operations will effectively stop no later than the second week of June."
Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever has strong words about the position he stepped down from last month at the Alliance to Combat Transnational Threats (ACTT) saying that he refused to participate in "federal government hypocrisy and duplicity."
Dever had been asked to represent Arizona Sheriffs at the ACTT, an intelligence-sharing and operational alliance of more than 60 law enforcement agencies throughout Arizona that includes Mexican agencies as well. After attending just a few meetings with other members of the ACTT, though, Dever removed himself from the group.
NEW YORK — A small kettle of coffee spiced with sugar and cinnamon steeps atop a gas griddle nestled carefully in a shopping cart. Yazmín Ortega, wearing a houndstooth coat, an apron and a baseball cap, adeptly flips a corn tortilla. She fills the taco with guisado, adds a dollop of red salsa, and with a shy smile, hands it to her customer.
Though the scene would not be out of place in Ortega's home state of Guerrero, Mexico, it plays out in New York City's East Harlem neighborhood, whose Mexican immigrant population has exploded in recent years. Many of the Mexicans who live here, began the journey through Southern Arizona.
Ortega, who crossed the border with her husband in March, arranged the journey from her hometown of Tlapa de Comonfort. The two took a bus from Guerrero to Mexico City, and from there caught a flight to Hermosillo.
In the desert along the U.S.-Mexico border, tall metal sentinels stand guard day and night, keeping their glass eyes trained on the rugged terrain.
Metal birds fly high over the cacti and brush, and trucks mounted with radar, track anything that moves. Along the border, technology is key.
Last year, the agency began construction on the first of 27 metal towers in the Arizona desert, said Eric Cantu, an agency spokesman. The "remote video surveillance systems" are electronic watch posts with two types color video for day and thermal imaging for night. The cameras can distinguish between a person and an animal from six miles away, while a laser range finder can gauge distance and pinpoint location, Cantu said.
Solar panels, rechargeable batteries and diesel generators provide the system with enough power to run off the power grid. Agents can pan and tilt the cameras from the Tucson Sector building, and when they see suspicious activity, they send out field agents.
While the towers are the largest of the high-tech tools available, souped-up battery-powered binoculars are some of the smallest. About the size of a shoebox, the Recon III boasts dual LCD screens with both heat-sensing and color cameras, a laser range finder, a digital magnetic compass and a GPS that can pinpoint a target's location.
How effective is that Border Patrol checkpoint three miles out of town? With any luck, we might finally find out.
For the third time in six years, the federal government has commissioned an evaluation of the agency's interior checkpoints.
The University of Arizona and the University of Texas at El Paso will each receive $500,000 to evaluate checkpoints' effectiveness and efficiency in a study set to begin next year. Organizers are still working out how they will conduct the study.