Being an avid AT reader, and living on the Arizona border in Cochise County, I thought I would provide those who wish to be informed some insight into the truth about the state of the U.S.-Mexican border -- at least in this part of the state.
I moved to Cochise County after retiring from the Army in 2008 to take a position working at Fort Huachuca (pronounced "wa-choo-ka," an Apache word meaning "place of thunder" and referring to the time after the summer monsoon season). Having lived here in 1991 for eight months while attending an Army school, I soon realized that the place had changed considerably in the eighteen years of my absence.
The first thing I noticed was how many border patrol vehicles were on the roads in the city of Sierra Vista. The Border Patrol has a large station near here in the city of Naco. There are far more Border Patrol vehicles in the area than SV police cars. They come in many forms -- trucks for off-road work, trailers carrying all-terrain vehicles, pickups with capacity for carrying large numbers of people once apprehended, and even a staff car for the area chaplain. The Border Patrol presence has grown substantially, so one would think the border area was nice and safe.
Not so. Within a short time after arriving in southern Arizona while on my way to work, I noticed eight illegal immigrants on the side of the road. Fortunately, they were in the custody of capable and attentive Border Patrol agents. Unfortunately, they were less than a hundred feet from my daughter's bus stop. She gets personal service to school now, as the school district refuses to enter the gated community in which we live. There is a nice wash, a valley into which the rainwater drains during the monsoons, which provides a nice route for the illegals to follow into the city, and therefore into their locations for pickup by the vehicles that will get them farther north.
Later, after I attended a movie on a Friday night, a car passed by me in the next lane going nearly a hundred miles an hour. It took a few seconds before I saw the police behind -- way behind -- with lights and sirens, trying to catch up. Surprise, surprise -- the next morning's paper discussed a Mexican drug runner being caught by County Sheriff's Deputies. On several occasions, the Border Patrol's helicopter has flown low and slow over the neighborhood, rattling windows and shining its spotlight in our backyard. When this happens, I strap on my pistol, grab a flashlight, and look and listen. Fortunately, I haven't found anybody within a hundred yards of the house -- yet.
Working on a U.S. Army fort, one would think we were fairly secure from these threats. Just not true. Reading the Fort Huachuca newspaper one morning, I noticed an interesting part of the "community" page. It asked for volunteers to assist in cleaning up "dumps" on posts where the illegals would drop their supplies used to cross the border and change clothing. They do this in order to blend in and not look like they just spent a day or two crossing the border in the dust and heat of southern Arizona. The most frightening part of this is that Fort Huachuca is the U.S. Army Intelligence Center, where the Army trains its intelligence soldiers -- analysts, interrogators, radio intercept specialists, and counterintelligence agents -- for operations overseas. If we can't secure the fort we use to train our intelligence soldiers, how can we secure anything else?
Much has been discussed about the new law in Arizona making it unlawful to be in Arizona in violation of federal immigration statutes. However, much less has been discussed about the shooting of rancher Robert Krentz. Robert was killed on his ranch on March 28, 2010. His ranch, on which the family began grazing cattle in 1907 (Arizona became a state in 1912), is a large, 35,000-acre area in remote Cochise County. It is so remote that the original Cochise, an Apache leader, used the mountainous terrain near it to hide from the U.S. Cavalry in the early 1870s. But much less is being said about the eight illegal immigrants and their load of 280 pounds of marijuana seized the day before Krentz was killed.
So Arizona should be boycotted because its people would like to keep it safe? Somebody please explain the logic of that for me. It doesn't take a bullet from a drug runner's gun to make those of us down here near the border understand that this is drug-related violence -- and Rob's death proves it.
It also doesn't take much more reading to see that the drug dealers are a huge problem with far-reaching capabilities. On April 27, 2010, a large drug bust took place here in Cochise County. Among those arrested was Angelica Marie Borquez, the secretary for the Drug Enforcement Division of the Cochise County Attorney office. Allegedly, Ms. Borquez was tipping off the drug runners to counter drug operations conducted by the county. She was so bold that she used the phone in the County Attorney's office to make some of her calls.
This isn't a blatant effort by drug cartels to obtain control here in America?
Many have already called Arizona residents racists. They are concerned that police will profile Hispanics and disproportionally harass them. But we understand something others in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco don't seem to remember -- we border Mexico. The fact is that most illegal immigrants coming across the border here are, well, Mexicans. Those of us down here facing the danger every day really don't care what some Hollywood actor has to say about the issue. Nor do we care about what the Colombian government or the Latino music community thinks of it. We just want to stay safe.
This is not about race; it's about facts. Use a few of these facts the next time somebody wants to engage you in discussion about the border. Tell him you learned these things from somebody who can see Mexico from his front porch.
T.J. Woodard is a retired Army officer who lives less than ten miles from the Mexican border. He carries a pistol even in his own house in order to be prepared to defend his family whenever necessary.