It’s a cat-and-mouse game, and the mouse is still winning. In spite of the best efforts of our Border Patrol agents, drugs and humans keep coming across our border with Mexico.
I recently returned from my seventh trip to the border. Our Border Patrol agents are trying to do their job, but they are being hampered by bureaucrats and “open border” initiatives put in place by President Barack Obama’s administration.
On this trip, I went out with two local groups, the Arizona Border Defenders and Arizona Border Recon, both comprising activist citizens who want to help us secure our borders by augmenting what the Border Patrol does.
The Arizona Border Defenders are from Tucson. Their members come down on weekends to service cameras they have placed in the desert that transmit live video images when the camera’s sensors detect movement, which may be cattle, illegal aliens or Border Patrol agents. They see the video images on their cellphones, wherever they may be, and alert the Border Patrol if they see anything suspicious.
Arizona Border Recon is a veteran-based organization. Tim Foley, the field operations director, and his communications director, “Spartan,” recently moved permanently to Sasabe, Arizona, less than a half mile from the Sasabe Port of Entry. Foley is a slender, chain-smoking, U.S. Army 82nd Airborne veteran who roams the smuggler trails with a shotgun in one hand and his dog, Rocko, complete with ABR K-9 jacket, close behind. “Spartan” handles communications with law enforcement.
On our second day we caught a glimpse of a shadowy figure disappearing down the back of a mountain inside the U.S. border; it was a cartel “scout.” The “scouts” operate on the mountains and monitor the movement of the Border Patrol and let the smugglers know when it is safe to bring across drugs and human cargo. Keep in my mind they operate in the mountains on U.S. soil as far as 100 miles inside our border.
Sasabe is in the Tucson Sector, which extends 262 miles from the New Mexico border in the east to the Yuma (Arizona) County line in the west. The Border Patrol apprehended 87,915 illegal aliens in fiscal year 2014 in this sector. In the same fiscal year, 479,371 illegal aliens were apprehended across the whole 1,954-mile length of the Southwest Border.
So, how many get through? Chris Cabrera, vice president of National Border Patrol Council #3307, estimates in a recent video that only 30 percent of illegal aliens coming across the border are apprehended.
In the time I was there, I noted the whole array of devices used at the border: Border Patrol and Arizona National Guard helicopters, an inspection station on Highway 286, “virtual fence” towers with radar and cameras sweeping the horizon, Border Patrol trucks racing up and down Highway 286 from their base in Tucson, quads on trailers used to go in the desert where other vehicles can’t, drones, sensors.
I was thinking about all this on my last day as Foley and I stood beside the 13-foot fence separating the United States from Mexico.
I asked him, in exasperation: “Why the hell aren’t we stopping everyone coming across the border?”
His answer: “We are waging a war with a shift mentality.”
He was referring to the fact that the cartels operate 24/7 while the Border Patrol, with shift changes, have gaps in their coverage. Border Patrol agents are further hampered by the Obama administration’s “open border” policy, such as the acceptance of the tens of thousands of unaccompanied alien children last year; the suspension of the Secure Communities program in November 2014, the use of “prosecutorial discretion,” and the sharp decline in Interior Deportations from 236,000 in 2009 to 102,000 in 2014.
The drug cartels are well financed, crafty and “they have better intelligence,” according to Sgt. Randy Merrell of the Dona Ana County Sheriff’s Office in New Mexico.
What is Maine’s congressional doing about this? As a group, Reps. Chellie Pingree and Bruce Poliquin and Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, are pathetically indifferent, inept or downright hostile to the idea of securing our borders and rationalizing our immigration system.
As I have seen in my seven trips to the border, starting in 2005 with the inception of the Minuteman Project, our borders are still wide open in spite of the best efforts of our dedicated Border Patrol agents; they are hampered by the bureaucracy, administration policies and the real culprits — the special interests and corrupt politicians in Washington, D.C.
Bob Casimiro of Bridgton is former executive director of Massachusetts Citizens for Immigration Reform.