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No justice for Arizonans

One year ago, on March 23, 2010, Arizona rancher Rob Krentz was murdered by an illegal intruder on his own property 15 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border. His family, friends and neighbors are still waiting for justice to be served, as are thousands of other victims of the escalating cross-border violence.

Rob Krentz’s widow, Susie Krentz, continues to work the family’s Cochise County ranch despite the obvious dangers. Like many border residents, she wonders openly about the disproportionate investment of resources in investigating and prosecuting the shooter in the Gabrielle Giffords attack in Tucson while the investigation of hundreds of other border-region crimes is neglected. Yes, a congresswoman was shot and a federal judge killed in the highly publicized Tucson shooting, but the shooter was tackled and captured on the spot. Meanwhile, there has been no arrest in the murder of her husband a full year later, and none of the four young “Mexican migrants” apprehended in the December 2010 shooting of Border Patrol officer Brian Terry have been charged with the crime.

Local law enforcement all across Arizona and Texas proclaim that a third to one-half of local crime is related to the human trafficking and drug smuggling from Mexico, yet federal officials will not admit there is any deficiency in border security. Thirty percent of all felony convictions in Maricopa County are illegal aliens; five Phoenix police officers have been killed by criminal aliens; and Phoenix is now the kidnapping capital of the United States. Arizona ranks second in auto thefts nationally. Yet, the Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, can tell a congressional committee that “the southwest border is as secure as it has ever been.”

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Sheriff Paul Babeu of Pinal County, Ariz., recently tallied the rise in crime since 2007 traceable to cross-border traffic. Marijuana seizures are up 80 percent; highway pursuits are up 300 percent, and calls to the Border Patrol have doubled. The desert region of his rural area in south-central Arizona has from 75 to 100 sites occupied by “scouts” for the Mexican drug cartels – permanent lookout stations manned and supplied not from Mexico but from permanent bases in Arizona.

Shortly after the murder of rancher Rob Krentz a year ago, the Arizona Cattle Growers Association proposed an 18-point plan for improving border security. One proposal was for expansion of military-style “Forward Operating Bases” to establish a Border Patrol presence on the border 24 hours daily. Thus far, the Border Patrol bureaucracy has not found the resources to implement the idea.

A year ago in April, Arizona’s Sens. Jon Kyl and John McCain – who was being challenged in a heated primary contest – unveiled a “10-point plan to better secure the U.S.-Mexico border.” A year later, their proposals have yet to be implemented by the Department of Homeland Security. We have not seen 700 miles of new fencing, nor new forward operating bases. There is no federal reimbursement for local government costs in prosecuting criminals who come across the border, and there are no additional checkpoints on state highways.

Worse than these lapses, the specific weakness in our southwest border security that allowed the Rob Krentz killer to enter the country and flee so easily has not been addressed. On the day Rob Krentz’s body was found, the killer’s tracks were followed southward to the San Bernardino Wildlife Area, a long valley bordering Mexico used regularly by smugglers because the Border Patrol is prohibited from doing routine patrols there. Nothing has been done to change that federal policy, which favors the protection of wildlife over the safety of human beings, and the smuggling through that corridor continues unabated.

Susie Krentz can’t get her questions answered. The local sheriff is stymied because although his office is the lead agency in the murder investigation, he cannot pursue investigative leads into Mexico. The Border Patrol defers all inquiries to the FBI. Meanwhile, the illegal traffic across the Krentz ranch and neighboring lands continues.

The lack of progress in the Krentz case is symbolic of the lack of progress on border security as a whole. Secretary Napolitano promises improved security through new technology while she reduces the Border Patrol’s Arizona manpower and stonewalls on other improvements requested by local law enforcement and ranchers.

Some day soon, the citizens of Arizona are going to conclude that even expanded Border Patrol activities will not be sufficient to bring the escalating border-region violence under control. The logical conclusion is the one reached back in 1914 when President Wilson sent Gen. Jack Pershing to the border with a full regiment of the U.S. Army at his command.