Don’t be fooled: Our southern border is as porous as ever

 

Not long ago, my morning walk in Arizona’s Santa Cruz River Valley was rudely interrupted. I’d been walking my dogs in the usually silent valley.

Suddenly, I heard the drone of an airplane. Irritated, I looked up to see a Border Patrol airplane drop down to circle just south of Palo Parado Road. Since my home is only 14 miles north of Mexico, I knew a drama would unfold. Sure enough, within 15 minutes, three Border Patrol vans sped up.

Somewhat nervously, I called my dogs to come sit by my side. We then watched the vans bump south on the dirt road alongside the Union Pacific railroad tracks.

A short time later, a van emerged out of clouds of dust to cough up its magnificent catch: two small, brown-skinned, and very frightened border trespassers. They wore the classic uniform of illegal migrants: dark blue T-shirts and blue jeans, tattered white sneakers on their feet. Baseball caps worn backwards rested on their heads.

As I watched, I found myself trying to tally up the costs of an airplane and three vans, plus the salaries of a pilot and six Border Patrol agents. I’m certain the Border Patrol spent many thousands of dollars to nab those two fellows.

That money is among the billions the federal government has been spending over the years to fortify our border. During the years I’ve lived here in Rio Rico, Ariz., the Border Patrol’s budget has more than tripled. But the number of undocumented migrants successfully crossing the border keeps increasing. At the same time, the number of people dying in the attempt also keeps increasing. In Arizona’s southern desert, the Associated Press reports, more than 200 illegal immigrants have died this year, "straining" the capacity of our county morgue.

Meanwhile, Mario Villarreal, a spokesman for the Border Patrol, said in Tucson's Arizona Daily Star: "We feel we have become extremely effective in border enforcement." From my point of view, Mr. Villareal’s feelings are pure fantasy.

But I’m not surprised by his comment. After all, the Border Patrol has always been slick with its statistics. For example, it reported 1.4 million "apprehensions" last year here in my Tucson sector alone. But in fact, its "apprehensions" of border trespassers may have been as few as 400,000 actual human beings.

The Border Patrol knows that far more than one-third of the migrants it shovels back to Mexico turn right around to try again — most often the very next day. I know this to be true on the ground, since most of the migrants I meet down in the river valley are recaptures.

Some even tell me that when they are caught again, border agents address them by their first names.

Still, the Border Patrol has been steadfast in its refusal to discount its recaptures, and there is good reason for that. The total of 1.4 million apprehensions surely impressed Washington politicians and bureaucrats and induces them to shovel ever more money to the Border Patrol.

Then, there’s the news report I read in the Arizona Republic. It seems that the University of California surveyed 603 migrants from Mexico’s Jalisco and Zacatecas states, the areas known to send most of the border trespassers coming to the United States. (I’ve met quite a few Jaliscans and Zacatecans on my morning walks.)

The university’s survey found that 92 percent of the Jaliscans and Zacatecans questioned claimed that they made is into this country within five tries, while "only 8 percent failed to get in and went back home."

Think about that statistic and the spurious claim of the Border Patrol that border enforcement has become "effective." The truth is this: So long as jobs are here that Americans refuse to do for the pay offered, people will cross the border to find work. Illegals will find the network that leads them to jobs, and employers will not hesitate to hire them. Deterrence does not work now, nor has it worked for a long time.

And what of those two frightened fellows whose capture I witnessed? Did they try to cross again the next morning? Of course, they did. With a 92 percent guarantee of success, I surely would. Wouldn’t you?

Jack McGarvey is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News in Paonia, Colorado (hcn.org). He lives and writes in Rio Rico, Arizona.

Note: the opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of High Country News, its board or staff. If you'd like to share an opinion piece of your own, please write Betsy Marston at [email protected].

High Country News Classifieds
  • SENIOR ENVIRONMENTAL PLANNER
    The City of Fort Collins is seeking a Senior Environmental Planner to lead the Nature in the City team. This interdisciplinary position is housed in...
  • COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT ASSISTANT
    The Idaho Conservation League (ICL) is seeking a dynamic community engagement assistant. The individual will work to identify and empower members, supporters, volunteers, and others...
  • VOICES OF WISDOM 2019 SOUTHWEST
    May 25 & 26 At the bank of the Colorado River, at Riverbend Park in Palisade, Colorado, the Sacred Fire Community in the Grand Valley...
  • PHILANTHROPY COORDINATOR
    Wyoming Wildlife Federation - collaborates with the Executive Director and staff to ensure the effective implementation of all philanthropic activities. https://wyomingwildlife.org/hiring-philanthropy-coordinator/.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    HawkWatch International is hiring an Executive Director to lead the organization. The next leader of this growing organization must have: 1. Enthusiasm for conservation, birds...
  • EVERLAND MOUNTAIN RETREAT
    Everland Mountain Retreat includes 318 mountaintop acres with a 3,200 square foot lodge and two smaller homes. Endless vistas of the Appalachian mountains, open skies,...
  • PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Home Resource is a non-profit community sustainability center. We work with, in, and for the community to reduce waste and build a more vibrant and...
  • COUNTRY ESTATE NEAR KINGS CANYON AND SEQUOIA PARKS
    Spectacular views of snowcapped Sierras. 15 miles from Kings Canyon/Sequoia Parks. 47 acres with 2 homes/75' pool/gym/patios/gardens. 1670 sq.ft. main home has 3 bdrm/1 bath....
  • BRN DEVELOPMENT & COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR
    Borderlands Restoration Network 501c3 is hiring a full-time Development Director. Description and job details can be found at https://www.borderlandsrestoration.org/job-opportunities.html
  • GILA NATIONAL FOREST NEW MEXICO
    Beautiful off-the-grid passive solar near the CDT. 9.4 acres, north of Silver City. Sam, 575.388.1921
  • WEB DESIGN AND CONTENT MANAGER
    We are seeking an experienced designer to be the team lead for web development and digital media. Part creator and part planner, this person should...
  • CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
    at RCAC. See the full description at https://bit.ly/2WJ3HvY Apply at [email protected]
  • GRASSROOTS ORGANIZER
    The Utah Rivers Council is looking for an energetic individual with strong communication and organizing skills. The Grassroots Organizer works to ensure our campaigns are...
  • JOHN DEERE SNOW BLOWER 24"
    Newly refurbished and tuned. Older model, great condition. Gasoline engine. Chains on tires. Heavy duty for mountain snow. Call cellphone and leave message or email.
  • STRAW BALE, ADOBE, TIMBER FRAME, HEALTHY HOME, NEAR LA VETA PASS, CO
    unique custom home in Sangre de Cristo Mountains of CO near La Veta Pass, 3 bed, 2 1/2 bath, private gated park, two hours from...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Flathead Lakers are seeking a dynamic, self-motivated and proven leader to be our next Executive Director (ED).
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Blackfoot Challenge, a renowned collaborative conservation org in MT, seeks our next ED.
  • COPPER CANYON MEXICO CAMPING & BACKPACKING
    Camping, hiking, backpacking, R2R2R, Tarahumara Easter, Mushroom Festival, www.coppercanyontrails.org.
  • STAFF ATTORNEY, ALASKA
    Earthjustice is hiring for a Staff Attorney
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    to lead an organization that funds projects in National Parks. Major gift fundraising and public lands experience critical. PD and app details @ peopleinparks.org.