By Stephen L. Wilmeth
Apache, Arizona: On a wind swept flat outside of the two room school house at Apache, Arizona, more than 500 people gathered last night to discuss the consequences of the death of local rancher, Rob Krentz. Rob was murdered sometime before noon on Saturday, March 27, in a pasture on his ranch. The perpetrator was thought to be connected to one of the drug cartels who have found the Mexican border too easy to cross.
The Krentz family has been in the ranching business on the New Mexico/Arizona border in the southern Rodeo Valley for more than 100 years. Rob was remembered by friends who referred to him as Mr. Community and the man who would always be objective and fair minded in all matters and in all situations.
As area and national news crews videoed the proceedings, a panel of 10 speakers made recommendations to Gabrielle Gifford (D-Az) so that this murder is the last rather than the first of a series of such tragedies as drug related violence spreads onto American soil.
As Representative Gifford took notes, the remoteness of the place had to make an impression on those gathered. The Boot Heel of New Mexico and the adjacent mountains of southeastern Arizona have become a funnel for illegal activities. While the incidence of human smuggling has diminished, drug related smuggling has escalated. In this corridor in particular, drug related activity has increased dramatically. The rugged terrain and the north south orientation of the valleys extending south into Mexico have made this area one of the most heavily accessed routes of entry along the entire border.
"For the first time in their lives, they look at the immensity and grandeur of their surroundings with fear rather than hope."
Along with that activity, the threat of violence has increased. With Rob Krentz’ murder, the threat to the local community has been elevated to an entirely new level. Residents cheered as requests were made to give Border Patrol agents law enforcement authority rather than observation and interdiction authority only. Similar responses occurred when requests were made to introduce a United States military presence on the border. To those present, there was an undeniable concern that something terrible was amiss. Rob Krentz’ murder was not just the cartel intrusion into their lives, but a more insidious disconnect between the American government and the people it was elected to serve.
Ranchers Edward Elbrock and Bill McDonald both shared that they now question their insistence that their families remain on the land and in the business of ranching. The danger of the surroundings and the diminishment of the freedom to act and manage their businesses have affected their expectations for the future. For the first time in their lives, they look at the immensity and grandeur of their surroundings with fear rather than hope.
Rodeo business owner, Nancy Klute, made a decision not to attend the meeting. Her rationale was that the words had already been spoken too many times already. “This country is the only country in the world that can’t come to the decision to close its borders to protect its citizens when such protection is so desperately needed,” she said.
Following the death of Mr. Krentz it was hours before officials allowed the tracks of the murderer to be followed. When the trail was finally followed, local rancher and outfitter Warner Glenn assisted in the tracking. The trail went south 20 miles before the sign was so corrupted by other tracks of illegal aliens that it was lost within mere feet of the border itself. “The culprit was obviously no stranger to the art of accessing American territory,” Mr. Glenn said. He had elected to access the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge for his escape back to Mexico.
He took full advantage of administrative obstacles that federal land agencies continue to place on the Border Patrol. The public comments at the gathering did not exempt the Border Patrol administration from blame, but the Border Patrol continues to be hamstrung by Department of Agriculture and Interior land management actions and internal policies. In various 2009 letters from USFW Regional Director, Benjamin Tuggle, the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector Chief was served notice that the Border Patrol henceforth would be given only conditional motorized access to the all important border access corridor that the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge south from the Krentz Ranch provides. Dr. Tuggle informed the Border Patrol that they would only be allowed motorized access if the immediate threat of life, health, and safety of humans was imminent and then only on administrative roads. Furthermore, each six months the necessary submittal of reports by the Border Patrol would be evaluated, and, if the actions of the Border Patrol did not comply with the order, USFW would suspend all motorized access by the Border Patrol.
Dr. Tuggle, with the stroke of a pen, imposed on the Border Patrol the full limitation and restriction of access that federally designated Wilderness imposes without any Congressional authority of Wilderness legislation. Such administrative action recklessly puts American citizenry at risk at all points north from areas like San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge. Innocent Americans like Rob Krentz have and will continue to pay the price for it.
Arizona Senatorial candidate, J.D. Hayworth, made it his priority to attend the Apache function. In closing the presentation portion of the public gathering, Mr. Hayworth reminded all that were gathered that the Constitution promises the American people their government would control their borders and protect them from a foreign invasion. The Constitution, however, is silent on the threat of a foreign invasion manifested by that same government. “It is time,” he said, “to make sure that the “First Defenders” are made the priority rather than the emphasis placed on the promotion of the “First Responders”.
By the time the first responders arrive it is too late. Rob Krentz is a victim of that growing American tragedy. Friends and colleagues can only hope that his death is the factor that will change the direction of the American government’s actions on the border. If his death doesn’t become that sign post, however, American freedom will be further diminished.