WHETSTONE, Ariz. – Little more than a small oasis in Arizona surrounded by mesquite desert that alternates with rolling mountains stretching upward to clear, blue skies, Whetstone, to the naked eye, is the picture of quiet rustic serenity. It has the appearance of modernity – convenience stores and smooth paved four-lane highways – mixed with a persona that has defined real and imagined impressions of the Old West for generations.

But unlike similar communities around the U.S., Whetstone is near the epicenter of an invasion of contraband and humanity that is unrivaled throughout the western world. As the only remaining global superpower, one would think America had technology and manpower to spare when it came to guarding, sealing and protecting its own borders. Yet, one day’s trek around this bucolic haven proves otherwise. And it provides an enlightening, if unwanted, education for even the most ardent immigration supporter.

Trails like these crisscross private and public lands throughout the southwest, leading into the U.S. from Mexico. Photo: Jon Dougherty/WND

Homes are sparse, but maintained dirt roads connect them. Along those roads are literally hundreds of “runs” – trails worn into the earth by tens of thousands of human travelers. At what are no doubt predetermined locations, along those trails are tire impressions of pick-up vehicles driven by coyotes – what men and women who smuggle illegal immigrants are called – who sit and wait for groups of illegals to take them to other predetermined locations further inland. Trails and pick-up points sometimes change daily.

The trails crisscross private lands, and when landowner fences become obstacles, they are either cut by illegal aliens and their smugglers, or bent over and torn down completely. Trash is evident along the runs, but it is heaviest at “rally points” – places where large groups of illegals meet before they make their way to the coyote pick-ups.

Heaps of trash – sometimes two feet deep – litter private property for miles near the border in Arizona. Photo: Jon Dougherty/WND

In some places the discarded water jugs and bottles, underwear, panties, toothbrushes, diapers, toilet paper, backpacks, food and snack containers, plastic shopping bags, cosmetics, shaving cream, razors, shoes and clothing is a few feet deep. In many others, it is, quite literally, strewn as far as the eye can see. Blankets found rolled up one day are found laid out the next, obviously slept on overnight by someone. The smell in many areas is overwhelming, especially in the heat of the summer. The amount of refuse is astounding – much more than could be left by a few dozen or even a few hundred people.

Local property owner John Petrello III stands in a trail beaten down by illegal alien traffic near his home in Whetstone. Photo: Jon Dougherty/WND

At several rally points, aliens have constructed “nests” – tent-like dwellings made with scrub brush and the branches of trees – which are not visible from nearby paved roads. At another, out of view of the highway and behind a railroad revetment, is a trail of trash that runs for several hundred yards along a culvert and back into the desert.

So heavy is the illegal smuggling traffic in some parts of Whetstone’s “suburbs” that local residents have constructed roadblocks made of scrub brush and branches. When asked why they are not removed or why “outsiders” shouldn’t drive around them, the image of dodging gunfire is evoked.

Other “enforcement” efforts include regular, if sparse, Border Patrol deployment and, increasingly, citizens themselves who are patrolling the border. Don’t blame the BP, though – blame Washington.

While experts say the illegal alien traffic is worse here in Arizona, without question the illegals are trying to get in anywhere they can, all along the border – even to the point of building makeshift ladders to scale fences and walls near San Diego, one of the best guarded areas of the border. Some have compared the border to a leaky dam; when one drip is plugged, another gets stronger.

Just how many, though, is still a matter of educated speculation. As a new Immigration and Naturalization Service report notes, the number – 7 million residing in the U.S. in 2000 – is astronomical and climbing. By 1999 nearly 1 million a year were entering; less than half were discovered and deported, said a separate independent analysis.

What is obvious, though, as Whetstone demonstrates, is the fact that Americans are losing pieces of this country to this invasion. Indeed, portions are already gone. That leads one to a simple question: Is ours a nation still worth defending? Most folks around these parts think so, and I agree.

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