COCHISE COUNTY, Ariz. — The U.S.-Mexican border here is the most heavily used corridor for illegal alien traffic on America’s southern boundary. With its difficult topography that is folded, creased and convoluted, it is a land that yields well to smuggling. The Huachuca, Chiricahua, Dragoon and Whetstone Mountains are riddled with hundreds of deep canyons, caves and arroyos that offer superb concealment for the hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens that annually cross here.
The numbers of unauthorized immigrants smuggled across this porous border dumbfound the imagination. To date, the U.S. Border Patrol has apprehended 158,782 illegals in 2001. By the Border Patrol’s own admission, it catches one alien in five, and admits that around 800,000 have slipped across the U.S. line this year. The local ranchers, who have been watching the border for several generations, strongly disagree. They contend the agency only nets one in 10, and estimate that in 2001 over 1.5 million unlawful immigrants have crossed into America in what the Border Patrol calls the Tucson Sector.
Many border ranch-owners are validly apprehensive of speaking about their desperate situations because of likely retribution by narco-militarists (drug runners) and coyotes (smugglers of humans). Unsolved murders and arsons are alarmingly ordinary in Cochise County, so pure fear keeps locals from speaking on the record.
Line of illegals moving across a ranch on the Cochise County, Ariz.-Mexican border. Photo by Donald Barnett, Bisbee, Ariz.
The foot traffic is so heavy that the backcountry has the ambience of a garbage dump and smells like an outdoor privy. In places, the land is littered a foot deep with bottles, cans, soiled disposable diapers, sanitary napkins, panties, clothes, backpacks, human feces, used toilet paper, pharmacy bottles and syringes (the drug runners inject stimulants to keep their energy up).
U.S. Border Patrol agents are doing the best they can, considering their sparse numbers and the impossible terrain they patrol in four-wheel-drive vehicles, quad-runners and on foot. Agents of the Border Patrol have their other fears besides being ambushed by rock-chucking illegals and confrontations with assault-rifle-armed narcos: They are not allowed to speak about what they cope with each day.
As one agent who spoke anonymously said, “Look, I can tell you a lot of stories, but I have to remain unnamed or I will be blackballed and might lose my job.” Then, worriedly, he added, “I have a family depending on me.”
Another agent, of supervisory rank, stated, “The smuggling traffic of Mexicans has really slowed. We are experiencing a tremendous increase in OTMs” – border lingo for “other than Mexicans.” When queried about the ethnic make up of the OTMs, he answered, “Central and South Americans, Orientals and Middle-Easterners.” Middle-Easterners? “Yeah, it varies, but about one in every 10 that we catch, is from a country like Yemen or Egypt.”
Border Patrol spokesperson Rene Noriega stated that the number of other-than-Mexican detentions has grown by 42 percent. Most of the non-Mexican migrants are from El Salvador and other parts of Central America, she said, but added that agents have picked up people from all over the world, including the former Soviet Union, Asia and the Middle East.
Pick-up truck load of mixed-nationality illegals destined for Tucson or Phoenix, Ariz. Once in those cities, an organized pipeline disburses them across America. The “trucking” is generally handled by street gangs. Photo by Donald Barnett, Bisbee, Ariz.
Arabs have been reported crossing the Arizona border for an unknown period. Border rancher George Morgan encounters thousands of illegals crossing his ranch on a well-used trail. He relates a holiday event: “It was Thanksgiving 1998, and I stepped outside my house and there were over a hundred ‘crossers’ in my yard. Damnedest bunch of illegals I ever saw. All of them were wearing black pants, white shirts and string ties. Maybe they were hoping to blend in,” he chuckled. “They took off, I called the Border Patrol, and a while later, an agent, Dan Green, let me know that they had caught them. He said that they were all Iranians.”
According to Border Patrol spokesperson Rob Daniels, “Ten Egyptians were arrested recently near Douglas, Arizona. Each had paid $7,000 to be brought from Guatemala into Mexico and then across the border.”
According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, hours after the 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, an anonymous caller led Mexican immigration agents to 41 undocumented Iraqis waiting to cross into the United States.
The Associated Press reported that Mexican immigration police detained 13 citizens of Yemen on Sept. 24, 2001, who were reportedly waiting to cross the border into Arizona. The Yemenis were arrested Sunday in Agua Prieta, across the border from Douglas. Luis Teran Balaguer, assistant head of immigration in the northern state of Sonora, said, “The evidence indicates that they have nothing to do with terrorist activities.”
Group of unauthorized immigrants take a rest break on a trail that winds across the Barnett ranch near Douglas, Ariz. Amateur photographer Donald Barnett alerted the Border Patrol and was there for the bust. He noted, “There were people in this batch from Brazil, Salvador, Costa Rica and some Arab countries.”
The Agua Prieta, Mexico newspaper, El Ciarin, clearly did not agree with Balaguer’s assessment. The editor, Jose Noriega Durazo, claimed in a front-page El Ciarin headline, “ESTUVIERON AQUI TERRORISTAS ARABES!” (The Arab terrorists were here!) El Ciarin quoted Agua Prieta police officials as identifying the 13 Yemenis as terrorists. Reportedly, the Mexican immigration police returned the Yemenis to a federal detention center near Mexico City, but new information would indicate that they were “released” and returned to Agua Prieta.
Carlos X. Carrillo, assistant chief U. S. Border Patrol, Tucson Sector, told WorldNetDaily in a telephone interview Monday that nine Yemenis were reportedly holed up in a hotel in the border town of Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico, across the border from Douglas, Ariz.
“We have passed this tip to the FBI,” said Carrillo.
When pressed for more information, he said he could not confirm the number of OTMs or Middle-Easterners apprehended while crossing the American/Mexican border. “We are under OP/SEC and cannot divulge this,” the chief said. (OP/SEC is a counter-intelligence acronym for operations security.)
A Border Patrol field patrol agent, who spoke anonymously, confirmed the presence of the nine Yemenis. The agent said, “They can’t get a coyote to transport them and they are offering $30,000 per person with no takers.”
On Oct. 12, a Mexican national, associated with the hotel in Agua Prieta, abandoned it and moved to Arizona — to hide out. Speaking on condition of anonymity, he told WND: “There were 13 Arabs there when I left. They were paying the coyotes 30 to 50,000 bucks, apiece, to transport them safely into the U.S. I became so frightened I left. They are genuinely bad hombres.” Since Carrillo had reported only nine Arabs at the hotel, it is unclear if the missing five Yemenis made it into the U.S. as reported.
Like most ranching families on the Arizona-Mexico border, the Winklers live behind protective bars. “We are having steel gates like this made for all our doors.” says Doris Winkler as she peers through an armored entrance. “We never know what kinda people will try to bust in our home.” Photo provided by the Paragon Foundation.
Potential terrorists, stealing across the border, had been predicted well in advance of the World Trade Center disaster. In a May 1, 2000, Report to Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives, the General Accounting Office reported, “Alien smuggling is a significant and growing problem. Some are smuggled as part of a criminal or terrorist enterprise that can pose a serious threat to U.S. national security.”
Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., in an Oct. 9 speech to the House of Representatives, stated, “It’s almost incredible to recognize, as part of the overall strategy this government is going to employ to deal with the issue of terrorism, that we would not concentrate heavily on securing our borders and try to do everything humanly possible to stop people, who have evil intent, from coming into the United States.”
Terrorists are well aware that the 4,000-mile border between the U.S. and Mexico is easy to cross, with its vast unmonitored stretches. Their crossing directly into Arizona is of special concern. Arizona appears to have been the home of a “sleeper cell” of Osama bin Laden’s worldwide terrorist organization, with a select group of operatives living quietly in bland apartment complexes and obtaining flight training, in preparation for the Sept. 11 attack. The organization’s known history in the state goes back nine years. Terror experts say the activities of at least three part-time Arizona residents fit the pattern of the al-Qaida terrorist network.
Sealing the border is a daunting task. Perhaps the most valuable asset that the Border Patrol has is the aid of rural Cochise County citizens. Many have attempted to help, in accordance with Arizona law. Through that legal process, landowners may execute a citizen’s arrest for individuals or groups trespassing on their property. However, even that has been nullified. The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, backed by the American and Mexican media, have characterized citizens who have legally detained aliens as “racist xenophobic vigilantes.”
Not a cattle or game trail, but a well-defined human path across the IGO ranch. Photo provided by the Paragon Foundation.
Rural citizens here have met with savage recriminations for exerting their legal rights. Immigration advocacy groups howl in protest, as does the Mexican government. Their lawyers have demanded that the ranchers be prosecuted for false arrest, kidnapping, intimidation, criminal assault and violation of civil rights – anything lawyers can come up with to advance their clients’ interests. Illegal immigrants have now sued some Cochise County citizens in American courts.
Ben Anderson, a retired U.S. Army colonel who lives in Sierra Vista, Ariz., has made a detailed study of the border danger since the flood of illegals began through Cochise County in 1997.
“There is only one way to handle this,” the colonel says firmly. “In a world now filled with biowarfare agents, backpack nuclear devices and chemical weapons like Sarin gas, we must militarize the border. There is no other way to stop the flow.”
Reporter’s personal note: “I do not see how the folks living along this border keep going. I am a former U.S. Marine sergeant, and yet the presence of so much apparent violence spooked me. In researching this story, I went backcountry on quad-runners with a goodly couple, Larry and Toni Vance. The first thing they asked me was if I brought a sidearm. When I said, ‘no,’ they promptly gave me a wheel-gun to strap on. To tell you the truth, that lump of metal was comforting. It’s not wise to travel unarmed in a war zone.”
J. Zane Walley is a spokesman for the Paragon Foundation, Alamogordo, N.M., which made this article possible. The Paragon Foundation is “dedicated to preserving the constitutional principles established by the Founding Fathers.” Citing Article IV, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution, Paragon notes: “The United States shall guarantee to every state in this union, a republican form of government, and shall protect each of them against invasion.” The Paragon Foundation can also be reached at 1-877-847-3443.