Skip to comments.Between two lands: America's border still beckons to thousands of Mexicans...
Posted on 07/19/2003 8:15:09 PM PDT by Spiff
By Bay Fang
U.S. News & World Report
IN THE SONORAN DESERT--It's a typical summer night in the Arizona desert, but it feels like the end of the world. Bolts of lightning flash here and there, illuminating the sky for seconds, then fading to black. Thunder crashes in surround sound. Craig Howard, a heavyset 57-year-old, packs two guns and sports a baseball cap. Sitting in a lawn chair behind a bush, he is stock-still as he listens for the sound of footsteps. Suddenly, there it is. Rustling. Then a dog barks. Howard jumps up, reaches for his high-beam flashlight, and switches it on as he runs into the road, whispering urgently into his walkie-talkie, "I got one!"
A Mexican immigrant, that is. Or, actually, four if you count the infant asleep in his mother's arms. The three others cower in a dry gully, their eyes averted from the flashlights shining in their faces. They are from Puebla, Mexico. Their destination? Tucson, 60 miles away. They have one bottle of water. Howard and his colleagues stand over the four, congratulating themselves as they call the Border Patrol. "We saved that baby's life--there's no way it would have survived the desert," says one man, adding, as the Mexican family is hauled into an official van, "Is it Miller time yet?"
The men are members of Civil Homeland Defense, a group founded in response to what its members call the "alien invasion." They are one of several civilian patrol groups that have sprung up along the Mexican border. Their mission, as they see it, is to protect the borders from the rising tide of illegal immigrants who, they say, not only overtax hospitals and schools but overrun ranches, breaking fences and leaving trash. "We don't owe them our livelihood, our country, our children's futures," says one member, "because Mexico is screwed up."
The groups have different specialties. Civil Homeland Defense patrols the border on foot; another Arizona group, American Border Patrol, develops surveillance technology, while Ranch Rescue, which has chapters throughout the border region, protects private property. All agree on one thing: Uncle Sam just isn't doing his job.
Changes. The groups have mushroomed, at least in part, as a result of a huge shift in public policy. In the mid-1990s, the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Border Patrol focused on tightening control of urban areas along the 2,000-mile-long border with Mexico. Washington spent $8 billion building infrastructure like high-tech concrete fences and surveillance systems near urban areas such as San Diego and El Paso--traditionally busy crossings. The assumption was that crossing through the desert was so risky that few would try it. But that assumption was wrong. Migrants are still coming at the rate of hundreds of thousands a year. But they are dying more quickly, forced to trek through forbidding mountains and deserts, where summer temperatures regularly reach 110 degrees. In the Border Patrol's Tucson sector, which is largely desert, 96 migrants have died since October. As recently as 1999, the annual number of deaths for the sector was 29.
Wayne Cornelius, director of the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies at the University of California-San Diego, has called the border enforcement policy "the clearest . . . and most systematic violation of human rights occurring on U.S. soil today." Many believe the policy has also made human smuggling much more lucrative. Fees for those who smuggle the migrants across the border--"coyotes"--have tripled since 1993; today, migrants pay up to $2,500 each. "All migrants needed before was assistance in evading the Border Patrol, but once they were on the other side, they were home free," Cornelius says. "Now, they need to be guided on a two-to-three-day trek."
The changing patterns have alarmed residents along the border and led to the founding of the citizens watch groups. "Ten years ago, we would put food out for the illegals," says John Petrello of Civil Homeland Defense. "Now, we've had our house and two cars broken into." Gloria Morales, 54, who lives with her family a mile north of the border, says illegal immigrants draw water from her tank all the time, and she calls the authorities as often as twice a week. "I don't mind if they want water, but I get scared because I don't know . . . what [the coyotes] are going to do," she says. Last week, she was home alone when a 15-year-old girl and her uncle approached the house; the girl's mother had just died. She fears the coyotes and sympathizes with the migrants, Morales says, but she doesn't approve of the civilian watch groups. "Can you imagine," she asks, "if we all took the law into our own hands?"
Border Patrol officials say they're doing what they can. In June, the agency launched Operation Desert Safeguard in an attempt to stem the number of migrant deaths, adding 150 agents in Arizona, specially outfitted humvees, and a horse patrol. There are now more agents than ever; 11,000 will be on board by late this year. Mario Villarreal, spokesperson for the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, says the Border Patrol appreciates community support, "but we discourage private parties from taking matters into their own hands."
While there have been no official reports of mistreatment by the Arizona groups, there is a lawsuit pending against Ranch Rescue in Texas, filed in May by the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of six undocumented immigrants who say they were assaulted. Ranch Rescue officials deny the allegations. Ranch Rescue has a more militant background than the others, calling themselves "soldiers" defending private property.
In the desert, Howard and the rest of his group pack up their lawn chairs and head back to base. They talk louder than usual, pumped with the excitement of the night. "You know, everyone was called upon by the president to be more vigilant," says Petrello. "We're just doing our patriotic duty."
The Southern Poverty Law Center is the Morris Dees front that can be best described as civil rights pimps. He has made a personal fortune by exploiting his experience in mail order and liberal guilt. He has suceeded in bankrupting the KKK, however, with a RICO like suit alleging conspiracy. In this new suit against Ranch Rescue he openly admits that the purpose of the litigation is to bankrupt Ranch Rescue.
Dees, of course, is the darling of the media. It is inconceivable that he would be described with the red neck cliches that have been used in this article against our citizens even though Dees himself speaks with a thick southern accent. If you keep an eye on these articles about anarchy on our southern border, you will see an allusion to the The Southern Poverty Law Center in virtually every one. I suspect that that Dees mail machine has been running hot lately and that is how this article came to be written.
Wayne Cornelius, director of the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies at the University of California-San Diego, has called the border enforcement policy "the clearest . . . and most systematic violation of human rights occurring on U.S. soil today."
How did Professor Cornelius come to be consulted? Was he discovered by good old fashioned investigative reporting by Newsweek? I hardly think so. Either he is a academic flak for Dees or, more likely, he has some connection to the Ford Foundation which has an openly (but not very loudly) expressed objective to see entirely open borders. The Ford Foundation has literally billions and their pockets are so deep that they can set the terms of the national debate this early in the game. Look for some connection among Dees, Cornelius and Ford.
I spoke to Chris Simcox, the leader of Civil Homeland Defense, on Thursday night. He thought this article was going to be a positive portrayal of the rescues that CHD performs in the desert. I told him not to get his hopes up. I was right. I'm going to try to get his reaction to this article and post it here.
If my connect the dots guesses are correct, you were quite right to be skeptical about the treatment Homeland Defense would receive in this article.
I was travelling home after visiting the hardware store and on the way home I saw what looked like a border intruder. He was entering a residential area and looked lost. He didn't fit the typical profile because a.)he wasn't wearing a hat, b.)he wasn't carrying a plastic bag, and c.) he wasn't too dirty. He was carrying a bottle of gatorade and a water bottle. I eyed him really closely and wasn't sure, so I thought I'd follow him at a distance to see what he'd do.
He took a turn further into the residential area and then I realized that he might end up walking right past the American Border Patrol Headquarters. I followed him until he hit the same road ABP is on and then I decided to talk to him to see what he was doing. I drove up to him, rolled down my window, and said, "You look lost. Do you live around here?" His answer was, "No speak Englais. No speak Englais." I said, "Thank you." and called Border Patrol on my cell phone.
I was still speaking to Border Patrol as I pulled into ABP's HQ and knocked on the front door. Glenn Spencer answered and I told him that he'd have a border intruder walking right in front of his headquarters in about 3 minutes.
He grabbed his shoes, cell phone, and video cameras and we headed out. Unfortunately, he couldn't find a charged vidcam battery or ready tape to record the intruder walking right past the HQ. We followed the intruder up the road and saw him turn onto another street. We followed him up that street and he turned into someone's driveway and headed for their house.
The house was behind a few trees but our view was not obstructed too badly. We waited in front of the house and observed his actions for a minute. Glenn expressed his doubts about the intruder when he noticed the wheelbarrow in the front yard and wondered if he was doing work at the house. The intruder stood around in the yard for a couple of minutes right by the house, then went to the front door. But, no one was home. He stood there trying to decide what to do and he cast a few nervous glances in our direction.
He then decided a course of action and walked to a location to the side of the house, putting a large pine tree between him and us. When he thought he was out of our view he ran like hell behind the house.
We turned around and zipped over one street and there he was walking down the street. We got Border Patrol on the cell phone again and told them that the intruder was moving in a different direction now and was about to run out of civilization and head towards the mountains.
The street we were on quickly became a dirt road, but we still followed about 50 feet behind the intruder hoping that the Border Patrol would show up. Noticing that we were not going to give up pursuit, the intruder turned 90 degrees and headed of into a Mesquite-dotted field, towards the mountains.
We tried the same thing and went to the next dirt road and circled back, but we could not locate him. He might have holed up under a Mesquite, deep in the field. Or he may have turned again and entered someone's back yard.
Border Patrol hadn't showed up and Glenn decided that we weren't going to get the intruder as my vehicle had no offroad capability and we'd lost the guy. We told Border Patrol his final location and heading. Glenn did get some video and photos and said he would post the story on his website later.
That was the bunch that I called in to Border Patrol. They made it to Delio's before BP showed up. I sat there with my headlights on them as BP rounded them up.
I spent all day under the freakin' house. The ducts for our swamp cooler were only duct-taped together and after 10 years the duct tape let go and the flex duct deteriorated. Had to replace some of it and secure it with steel clamps. The intruder chase was a welcome diversion. I was probably dirtier than he was. Maybe that's why he didn't look too dirty to me.
Hope the dog gets better.
I'm writing in Tom Tancredo for President in 2004, and I hope millions of other disgusted Americans do the same. janetgreen from Mexifornia