Open Season on Border Residents

Posted: May 13, 2010 12:00 AM
Open Season on Border Residents

If you’ve ever wondered what it was like to be an American frontiersman, you’ve now got that opportunity in modern times. Just move to Hudspeth County along the Texas-Mexico border and follow Sheriff Arvin West’s advice, “Arm yourself.”

Nearly two weeks ago, I met with the Sheriff, border patrol and customs agents, and farmers and ranchers who are all on a high state of alert. What I learned, what I heard, and what I saw was nothing short of shocking.

Located 50 miles East of El Paso (and the butcher shop that was once Ciudad Juarez), Fort Hancock, Texas rests on a stretch of the Rio Grande where the river is rarely more than a foot deep. Wide open and easily traversable high desert expands for miles but is readily accessible using a highway on the Mexican side and Texas Highway 20 on the U.S. side. Simply put, ideal for narco-trafficking and human smugglers – and they know it.

This area of the border, and the families who live here, is valiantly protected by 17 officers of the Sheriff’s Department (including the Sheriff himself) and even fewer border and customs agents. For about 14 miles there is a 25 foot high wall. Fourteen miles, that is all. Smugglers and drug traffickers simply go around it and onto the land of farmers and ranchers.

Certainly the lack of a continuous and effective border wall is an insult to the people who live here and the wasted taxpayer dollars this fourteen mile farce represents. But, it is by no means the worst, most egregious example of how faulty Washington policy-making results in zero border security.

The border patrol agents are too few to cover this vast area. They are out gunned, out manned, and lack basic equipment like night-vision goggles (tip to Congress, drug smugglers work at night).The reality is they regularly borrow night-vision equipment and, sometimes, ammunition from the farmers and ranchers.

These same farmers and ranchers showed me video, shot at night, of heavily armed drug runners confidently crossing their property. . .invading American soil.

When our border agents have only half loaded 9mm side arms, they can hardly be blamed for not engaging the murderers who are crossing into our country. Given their strict rules of engagement, I was told, the agents themselves wonder “If I pull this trigger, am I going to be thrown in jail.”

It is an absolute outrage that these agents aren’t emboldened, encouraged, and empowered to act in defense of our country.

But, at least they have around 25 new patrol vehicles and a brand new office building. The problem is, they don’t use the vehicles or the office because there are too few of them to do so – their time is needed patrolling.

Instead of an office building, these brave men are asking for more help, more agents, a detention center, a completed wall, or support from the military. The empty building and unused vehicles stand as a stark and perfect example of how nonsensical Washington spending does not meet the real border security needs of our country.

The frontiersmen and women of Hudspeth County are cut from tough stock. They are brave. They are determined. But they are also afraid.

Although it went unsaid, they are wondering, will it take them or their children being wounded or killed before Congress stops dithering and takes serious, meaningful measures to protect them, their families, and America’s sovereign soil?

America deserves a Congress with the courage and common sense to meet its Constitutional duty of protecting our country. We need military assistance, real barriers, and more agents with the right equipment and weapons before it becomes a wide open season on our border residents.

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