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AT THE ARIZONA-MEXICO BORDER -- Rancher Jim Chilton wrestles his brush-scarred Ford F-350 pickup truck down the rutted dirt road that leads to the Mexican border. Drug smugglers often wear carpet overshoes like these to cover their tracks when crossing the border. This picture suggests that the costs of securing the border already have been extraordinarily high, not just in dollars, but in lives. So it is with the teenager, Ivan, who says he spent a month freight-hopping and working his way north toward Atlanta from the hardscrabble farming town of Tuxpan, in the central Mexican state of Michoacan. Many migrants and human-rights activists on the border say that the drug cartels now control the crossing routes; guides and migrants must pay a tribute. Ivan, between gulps of water, denies involvement with drug -smuggling, saying he’d come north to find work so he could send money back to his family.
All the same, when a Border Patrol truck rolls up a few minutes later, Ivan’s shoulders sag and he sighs, utterly deflated. Like a seam through the apartment and house-covered hills of Nogales, much more urbanized on the Mexican side, an 18-foot-tall steel fence, punctuated by 11 surveillance towers, stretches some eight miles from the main port of entry to the west. But as pilot Steve Fasciola, deputy director of CBP’s Tucson air branch, flies farther west, towards the Altar Valley and the rugged Baboquivari Mountain range, the daunting nature of the challenge becomes clear.
Most of this stretch is roadless, but scores of trails can be seen crossing from Mexico into Arizona, both in the flats and in the mountains.
The view from above of the border fence that separates Nogales, Sonora, right, from Nogales, Arizona. These days, some politicians point to Yuma as an example of how the rest of the border should be locked down. The Secure Fence Act of 2006 and a separate homeland-security bill called for building up to 700 miles of fencing, vastly boosting the use of sensors, unmanned aircraft and other technology, and doubling the number of Border Patrol agents along the whole border. In an effort to drive migrants elsewhere, Homeland Security adopted new, controversial strategies. By 2009, the number of migrants apprehended in the Yuma sector had fallen by 95 percent from 2005 (versus 55 percent nationally). These are the areas where some ranchers say they’ve fenced off their houses and sleep with guns by their beds. One recent afternoon, they lead two journalists on a vigorous hike up a brush-studded gully to a hillside where last December Jim Chilton found four backpack-sized bales of marijuana, abandoned by smugglers who apparently fled on seeing him coming. Five years ago, scores of people walked across his ranch daily, mostly migrants heading north to find jobs, says Joe King, whose family has operated the Anvil Ranch, north of Sasabe and west of I-19, the Nogales-Tucson highway, since 1885. They’re also scarier, said Bill McGibbon, whose Santa Rita ranch lies east of I-19 beneath its namesake mountains. Looked at as a ratio, a migrant was three times likelier to die crossing the border last year than in 2007.
On a recent, brisk evening in Nogales, Sonora, deportees sit outside the local office of Grupo Beta on wooden benches, sharing warnings and tales of dangers with migrants who haven’t yet tried their luck. Reyes, who’s from Oaxaca, says he crossed the border two weeks earlier, north of the town of Altar, with two other men and four young women. Such stories do little to dissuade others who’ve trekked for days and weeks just to get this far. The shelter, which Hilda and Francisco Loureiro have operated for 31 years, is tidy, safe and spartan. But the next morning, as the rain drums on the tin roof of a soup kitchen, run by Catholic nuns and priests, where the migrants have been sent for breakfast, their plans continue.
After the talk, as others move to the dining room, Leidi del Lucero, 18, barely 5 feet tall, prays intently in a corner of the small chapel. She reluctantly admits she has been caught three times crossing near Nogales in the past two months.
Manuel Gonzalez, 24, is one of at leave four men at the soup kitchen that morning trying to get back to their families in Phoenix.
After being detained nearly eight months, he was deported to Piedras Negras, west of Eagle Pass, Texas, ten days earlier.
Even as the number of migrants detained annually in Arizona has dropped by 70 percent over the past five years, to about 126,500, according to CBP, drug seizures have climbed. Legal ports of entry are where most heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine seizures are made, CBP officers say. The Tucson sector is the main marijuana corridor from Mexico, accounting for 44 percent of all Border Patrol marijuana seizures across the entire Southwest border last fiscal year. Most commonly, that marijuana is hauled across in remote areas by teams of backpackers, agents say.
Current discussions about border security have been complicated by the sequester, steep budget cuts imposed by Congress last month, expected to stay in place through the end of the fiscal year in September. A week after the sequester, at the same time of day, the checkpoint was still operating; but not a single Border Patrol vehicle could be seen anywhere else along the same 43-mile route. Inside his sprawling ranch house, Jim Chilton walks past a stuffed mountain lion and up a few steps to a heavy custom-made wooden dining-room table, and unrolls a map of the border. Many ranchers say they see the need for immigration reforms, and say there should be easier ways for people who want work to enter the country legally. Ask any Arizona rancher about border security and almost inevitably the conversation will turn to Rob Krentz. But Krentz’s murder remains remarkable in its singularity, given the massive traffic.
In the Tucson sector alone, since 2006, agents have caught nearly 1.8 million migrants, and estimate that more than 850,000 have made it through. Jim Chilton regularly patrols his ranch on the Arizona-Mexico border, where there is little but barbed-wire fences or steel beams to stop crossers.
At a recent Border Expo in Phoenix, where military contractors and other vendors were pitching their wares to government officials, The Republic put the query to a posse of former CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement directors. On the same morning Bonner says this, the newest batch of deportees in Nogales eat breakfast at a soup kitchen a few minutes walk from the border.


As for Ivan, the youth whom rancher Jim Chilton encountered, the Border Patrol said he was returned to Mexico, but not through Nogales, in coordination with the Mexican consulate in Tucson the next day.
Download your free copy of Total Kid, an interactive digital parenting magazine filled with trending health topics, videos, tips and activities. Follow our latest Twitter activity on topics ranging from breaking news to great shopping deals around the Valley. The Border Patrol, scrambling to hire thousands of agents by the end of the year, is taking its recruiting efforts overseas to try to enlist military veterans as they leave their tours of duty. The Homeland Security Department has been trying to drastically increase the number of agents along the nation's open borders. The recruiting drive also comes at a time when law enforcement agencies nationwide, from city and state police departments to the FBI, are competing for hires. In 2001, the Border Patrol had fewer than 10,000 agents covering the northern and southern borders with Canada and Mexico. President Bush has said he wants the size of the agency doubled, to 20,000 agents, by the time he leaves office in January 2009.
The government has done some unconventional recruiting, plastering the Border Patrol's name on the side of a NASCAR racer and sending CBP's honor guard to professional football games in Texas and Michigan.
On April 19, Dunlop said, recruiters plan to blanket Ohio in a massive "Buckeye Blitz" recruiting effort that will cover the state's seven biggest cities.
In Germany, Arata said, recruiters went after military veterans looking for their next career and promoted the Border Patrol as an agency that pays up to $70,000 a year after three years. He said the push to hire thousands of agents so quickly inevitably will result in the same problems other major law enforcement agencies and police departments have run into when they hired too many officers too fast: poor training and inexperience.
Before they are sent to the border to work, new agents go through 55 days of training at the Border Patrol's academy in Artesia, N.M. If they don't speak Spanish, they take another 40 days of intensive language training, Dunlop said. She said the academy averages 50 trainees per class and it graduates an average of two classes per week. Guidelines: You share in the USA TODAY community, so please keep your comments smart and civil. Our mission is to bring awareness to any issue which challenges the security, sovereignty or domestic tranquility of our beloved nation, The United States of America.
The border patrol says the growing number of militia members is an increasing concern for them. Militias have flocked to the Rio Grande Valley to help secure the border and many plan to participate in the September 20th protest to shutdown ports of entry, but agents say militias complicate law enforcement efforts.
Right now, the National Guard, hundreds of state troopers and 3,600 border patrol agents are all patrolling the border in the valley and they say adding groups that are not connected could be dangerous. In August, an agent was pursuing a group of immigrants in the Brownsville area when he came across a man holding a rifle. Agents also go through weeks of training to understand immigration laws and say that people who are not trained on those standards could violate someone’s civil rights and open themselves up for a civil lawsuit. That very reason is why the border patrol stand by their message of leaving border security to them.
Get daily news alerts from the Tea Party with the latest breaking news impacting the country. They have added an armada of drones, aircraft, canine teams, horse patrols, checkpoints and vehicle patrols that range up to 60 miles from the actual border to arrest migrants and catch drug smugglers.
It suggests that all of this security has done little to stanch the flow of millions of pounds of drugs north — or of 250,000 guns a year and billions of dollars south. It rises and falls through neighborhoods that peter out into cattle pens and then scrublands dotted with mesquite trees. Fasciola circles over one peak where a small canopy and sleeping bag have been hurriedly abandoned.
An ambitious effort starting in 2006 built 98 new miles of fencing, including a 68-mile stretch going deep into the Sonoran Desert, a San Diego-style floodlit triple fence along 1.7 miles of the most urbanized part of the Mexican border town of San Luis Rio Colorado, 16 miles of pedestrian fencing nearby, and 13 miles of vehicle fence along a section of border where the Colorado River runs low enough for vehicles to cross.
One, dubbed Operation Streamline, called for criminally prosecuting nearly all undocumented migrants in the highest-volume sectors (initially El Centro, in California, and the Yuma sector), for what previously had been considered civil violations.
They’ve stayed down since, with 6,500 last fiscal year, according to the Border Patrol. The smugglers’ routes, too, were redirected by the taller fences and increased security.
In the past five years, the Chiltons put in 13 water fountains on their wells and the water lines leading to cattle troughs throughout their ranch, in hopes that migrants will use the fountains instead of damaging the pipes trying to get clean water. One of their favorites is recent: In December, they let an NBC television crew place a camouflaged, motion-sensor video camera near where they found the marijuana. Those migrants left lots of trash and often damaged pipes and cattle troughs trying to get water, he says. She shrugs, sighs and says she and her husband, Misal Hernandez, are heading back home to Puebla the next day. As the migrants pack into a long van that rattles its way to the San Juan Bosco shelter on the south end of town, Jose, 17, says he spent a week and a half hopping 15 freight trains to get to Nogales from Escuintla, on the Pacific coast of Guatemala. On a nearby crucifix, both arms of the figure of Jesus are covered with red ID bracelets once worn by deportees. Gonzalez, wearing a crucifix around his neck, says he first crossed with his parents in 2004, and lived in Phoenix until last June, working in construction, washing dishes in a Chinese restaurant in Gilbert. In one week in mid-March, CBP officers made five seizures at Arizona ports of entry totaling 148 pounds of cocaine, 90 pounds of meth, and 9 pounds of heroin. Border Patrol agents in the Tucson sector seized more than 1 million pounds of pot, down slightly from a year earlier but still up 14 percent from a then-record 890,000 pounds seized in 2007, according to CBP. Customs and Border Protection officer checks the green cards of daily crossers entering the United States.
Five years ago, a pound of marijuana in Phoenix, the main trans-shipment point for pot from Mexico, typically sold for $400 to $650 a pound, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.


Over the past five years, CBP and Border Patrol officers have seized, on average, fewer than 2,000 weapons a year presumably headed to the criminal groups sending the drugs north. CBP said that furloughs and cuts in overtime would reduce Border Patrol agent hours for the rest of this fiscal year by the equivalent of 5,000 full-time positions, nearly a quarter of the force. On a recent drive from I-19 through the town of Arivaca to Sasabe, a week before the sequester, 14 Border Patrol vehicles were visible along the road, in addition to three at a checkpoint. A Border Patrol spokesman said the number of vehicles on the road had been reduced by half since the sequester, with agents doubling up. He jabs at it to make a point — one that is echoed by the local cattle growers association, as ranchers call themselves. In urban areas such as downtown Nogales, where people can rapidly vanish and agents have minutes at most to detain crossers, they use large numbers of agents and cameras along the fence to try to spot and catch people immediately.
He was shot to death on his ranch north of Douglas on March 27, 2010, after radioing his brother that he was going to help a migrant who seemed to be in trouble. During the initial investigation, then-Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever noted that Krentz would be the first Arizona rancher killed by a smuggler in 30 years.
But they largely demand that the Border Patrol stop smugglers and migrants as close to the border as possible. Citing privacy issues, neither the Border Patrol nor the consulate would say where he was sent. You'll also be able to select feeds ranging from great things to do to what's happening in your town!
An average Army sergeant with four years' service would earn $26,964 base pay, plus housing and other benefits.
Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council, criticized the Bush administration for not hiring more agents sooner.
Border Patrol agent Galen Huffman keeps a tight rein on a group detained early this year in Arizona on suspicion of illegally crossing the Mexican-U.S.
The boy, dusty, his ragged pants tied at the waist with rope, looks back as the truck jounces towards him, but he doesn’t run. But look beyond the pages of statistics on migrant detentions and drug seizures; visit the border to see how the buildup has affected those who live here and those who cross through here, and a less black-and-white picture emerges.
Because, he says, after two days without water and two nights shivering in near-freezing temperatures in his black T-shirt and thin jeans jacket, he’s done. In the riverbeds and flats, there are stretches of vehicle fencing, essentially I-beams welded together in a sawhorse shape, $1.8 million a mile, interspersed with four-strand barbed-wire fence and, on the steep mountain slopes, no fences at all.
The distinctive sound of the helicopter’s rotors gives plenty of warning, Fasciola says through his headset.
Scores of migrants would gather at a time near San Luis, south of Yuma, and charge across the border, knowing most could slip past while outnumbered Border Patrol agents tried to grab whomever they could, like in a giant game of Red Rover, said agents in Yuma. Hundreds of National Guard units were brought in to help the Border Patrol, even as the number of agents in that sector nearly tripled. They’ve owned their ranch for 27 years, but Jim Chilton is a fifth-generation Arizona rancher. Farther up another hill, under a large overhanging mesquite tree that shields anyone under it from being seen from the air, more water bottles and other garbage carpet the ground.
They soon find tightly wrapped bundles of heroin in the wheel wells, and arrest the young, well-dressed woman driving it, cuffing her hands behind her back and taking her 4-year-old daughter into custody. The drones (10 of which have cost $240 million to buy and operate to date) are useful, agents say, but they are sensitive to high winds and the Border Patrol hasn’t yet trained enough controllers to fly them. Hours of CBP officers, who work in the ports of entry and rack up less overtime, would be cut 12.5 percent.
At one point about eight miles north of Sasabe, four glum migrants, cuffed by agents, sat waiting to be searched and loaded into a truck.
In rural and desert areas, where it takes migrants and smugglers hours or days to get to major roads, agents use ground sensors, towers with cameras and night-vision lenses, truck-mounted mobile surveillance systems, agent patrols and checkpoints to try to catch people up to 60 miles north of the border.
No suspect was ever identified; but ranchers and most locals presume it was a drug smuggler. 2 after he reportedly opened fire on two other agents responding to a tripped sensor near Naco. So as with so many who cross in remote reaches of the border, where he has wound up remains unclear. But they have not so much stopped the migrants and drug smugglers as they have redirected them from busy border towns such as San Diego, El Paso and Laredo, to remote desert trails in the wilds of Arizona and south Texas. But some tried their luck farther east, in the Tucson sector, which is harder to secure because of its size and rugged terrain. Congress restored some funds through a continuing resolution in late March; CBP said it is re-evaluating its reductions. But questions about just how thoughtfully Homeland Security has deployed resources along the border continue to dog the department. Drug smugglers tie on carpet-soled overshoes to disguise their tracks, he observes, as he rolls down his window.
That sector saw a much slower decline (43 percent) over those years than Yuma or the nation as a whole.
Compared with five years ago, 20 percent more died last year even as Border Patrol apprehensions fell by 58 percent.
And it has continued to stoke fears among ranchers that drug violence is crossing the border.



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