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.

High Country News Classifieds
  • NORTHERN NEW MEXICO PROJECT MANAGER
    Seeking qualified Northern New Mexico Project Manager to provide expertise, leadership and support to the organization by planning, cultivating, implementing and managing land conservation activities,...
  • REGIONAL TRAIL STEWARDSHIP COORDINATOR
    Are you passionate about connecting people to the outdoors? The Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) is looking for someone with trail maintenance and volunteer engagement...
  • TRAIL CREW MEMBER
    Position Title: Trail Crew Member Position Type: 6 month seasonal position, April 17-October 15, 2023 Location: Field-based; The RFOV office is in Carbondale, CO, and...
  • CEO BUFFALO NATIONS GRASSLANDS ALLIANCE
    Chief Executive Officer, Remote Exempt position for Buffalo Nations Grasslands Alliance is responsible for the planning and organization of BNGA's day-to-day operations
  • IDAHO DIRECTOR - WESTERN WATERSHEDS PROJECT
    Western Watersheds Project seeks an Idaho Director to continue and expand upon WWP's campaign to protect and restore public lands and wildlife in Idaho, with...
  • DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT, NA'AH ILLAHEE FUND
    Na'ah Illahee Fund (NIF) is seeking a highly qualified Development Director to join our team in supporting and furthering our mission. This position will create...
  • DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS, NA'AH ILLAHEE FUND
    Na'ah Illahee Fund (NIF) is seeking a highly qualified Operations Director to join our team. This position will provide critical organizational and systems support to...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners (GSEP) is seeking a leader to join our dynamic team in the long-term protection of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM). We...
  • GRASSLAND RESEARCH COORDINATOR
    The Grassland Research Coordinator is a cooperative position with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that performs and participates in and coordinates data collection for...
  • HYDROELECTRIC PLANT
    1.3 MW FERC licensed hydroelectric station near Taylorsville CA. Property is 184 deeded acres surrounded by National Forrest.
  • "PROFILES IN COURAGE: STANDING AGAINST THE WYOMING WIND"
    13 stories of extraordinary courage including HCN founder Tom Bell, PRBRC director Lynn Dickey, Liz Cheney, People of Heart Mountain, the Wind River Indian Reservation...
  • GRANT WRITER
    JOB DESCRIPTION: This Work involves the responsibility of conducting research in the procurement of Federal, State, County, and private grant funding. Additional responsibilities include identifying...
  • MATADOR RANCH STEWARD
    The Matador Ranch Steward conducts annual stewardship projects at the Matador Ranch Preserve and occasionally supports stewardship projects elsewhere in Montana's Northern Great Plains. The...
  • COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT ASSISTANT
    The Idaho Conservation League is seeking a motivated individual to help build public support for key strategic initiatives in northern Idaho through public outreach and...
  • PROGRAM MANAGER
    Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness Foundation seeks a steward/educator to lead backcountry volunteer projects and community outreach. FT $36k-$40k, competitive time off. ALSO HIRING OPERATIONS MANAGER. More...
  • ASSISTANT RANCH OPERATIONS MANAGER
    WANTED: ASSISTANT RANCH OPERATIONS MANAGER ~ UTAH/COLORADO border ~ Looking to immediately hire an experienced and clean hardworker to join us on a beautiful, very...
  • ASPIRE COLORADO SUSTAINABLE BODY AND HOME CARE PRODUCTS
    Go Bulk! Go Natural! Our products are better for you and better for the environment. Say no to single-use plastic. Made in U.S.A., by a...
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Field seminars for adults in the natural and human history of the Colorado Plateau, with lodge and base camp options. Small groups, guest experts.
  • CORTEZ COLORADO LOT FOR SALE
    Historic tree-lined Montezuma Ave. Zoned Neighborhood Business. Build your dream house or business right in the heart of town. $74,000. Southwest Realty
  • ENVIRONMENTAL AND CONSTRUCTION GEOPHYSICS
    - We find groundwater, buried debris and assist with new construction projects for a fraction of drilling costs.