DREAMers in Camouflage
On Monday, June 9, in the remote borderlands of Arizona, a rancher encountered seven illegal immigrant DREAMers on his property. They were all dressed in camouflage, carrying blackened water bottles to reflect the moonlight and wearing carpet booties to throw off Border Patrol trackers. Six were from Central America, and the oldest was 18.
These crossers entered the country at the same time that other, much younger Central American kids, sent from Texas for processing, were being held at a Border Patrol warehouse, 35 miles to the east in Nogales.
The surge of Central Americans across our border is a huge development with long-term consequences. It clarifies a lot.
Before continuing with the story of the DREAMers in camouflage, let's list the lessons we're learning here.
First, if you wave them in, they will come. President Obama has spent years looking for ways to soften or ignore immigration laws, and the message has been heard far south of the line. These Central American parents sending their kids north know that if they can get in, they'll almost certainly stay.
Second, the claims by former DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano that the border is secure have proven false. We know now that that was mostly a sales job to pass immigration reform.
Yes, arrests plummeted, and conditions in some parts of the border improved. But the main driver of the drop in crossings has been the lousy economy, not border enforcement. If thousands of children can bust your perimeter, it's not worth much.
Another point, seemingly lost on our "compassionate" president and his supporters in the media: waving DREAMers into the country puts them at great risk. Those Texas kids get across the Rio Grande with the help of the worst gangsters in the western hemisphere.
"They're being delivered to the river's edge by MS-13, by Los Zetas and by the Gulf Cartel," says Ron Colburn, a retired national deputy chief of Border Patrol. "In some instances, according to Mexican TV, they're escorted to the river by uniformed Mexican law enforcement and military.”
But they only get to the Rio Grande after riding a train up from southern Mexico – a train "owned" by MS-13, says Colburn, who still sees intel reports in his current work as a homeland security consultant.
At the river, the gangsters point out waiting Border Patrol on the American side. While the agents are busy, the gang might move 500 pounds of dope, or dangerous aliens, through the thick brush down river.
"Is America put at risk while agents are tied up with women and children?” asks Colburn. “To me it's obviously yes."
The chaos is Christmas for the cartels. In Arizona, a hundred Border Patrol agents have been shifted from Tucson to Texas to help, compromising citizen and law enforcement safety here. Already an Arizona cattlemen's group has alerted members to take additional precautions against traffickers on their land.
And agents in Arizona report seeing an uptick in Central Americans here as well. The DREAMers in camouflage were found outside Arivaca, 65 miles southwest of Tucson. After riding the MS-13 train, they paid $800 apiece to the gang that controls the border on the Sonoran side, likely an offshoot of the powerful Sinaloa Cartel.
The fee included camos, water bottles, carpet booties, and, based on their behavior, probably training in how to bunch up in the brush to avoid detection. One was from Mexico, four from Guatemala, and two from Honduras. The group included one female claiming to be 16, although the rancher believed she was much younger.
But after entering Arizona, their coyote abandoned them, and by the time they approached the rancher, they'd been lost in the mountains for six days and six nights – and had only gotten seven miles from the border. The temperature was 103. But they refused to turn themselves in to Border Patrol and lose their $800.
"When agents arrived, two of them ran and the rest bunched up near my tack room, trying to hide," says the rancher, adding that all were eventually caught. "Border Patrol had been looking for them for several days, and if they hadn't found them there's a good chance they'd have died."
And not just from the brutal elements. Southern Arizona's canyons and mountains are the scene of a nasty little war the federal government doesn’t like to talk about. Armed bandits known as bajadores roam the landscape looking for vulnerable crossers to assault, rob, rape, and murder.
They're a kind of borderlands' Taliban, violent, vicious and merciless to those they target, either because they're defenseless or they ventured onto a bought trail without permission.
Solving the DREAMer disaster, in Colburn’s view, could be done swiftly and without much difficulty. He says Border Patrol has faced mass crossings before, the last in 2005 when Brazilians rushed the border in Texas, a mirror image of what’s happening now.
It was stopped by putting them on planes and flying them home, rather than settling them in the U.S. interior, which is being done now. When family members in São Paulo and elsewhere started getting calls from crossers being held for prompt return, the rush ended.
But it takes will, leadership, and a guarantee of consequences. Without those, the northward flow will continue, which Colburn believes is Obama’s intention. Colburn charges that the administration wants this crisis so it can step in and say the solution is immigration reform.
“The administration is leveraging public opinion and holding America hostage on this,” says Colburn. “I didn’t think anybody could be this blatant and brazen about disregarding the will of the American people and the law of the land. I never thought something like this could happen.”
Clarity. It’s always a good thing, even when it scares the hell out of you.
Leo W. Banks is a writer in Tucson. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.