The Battle of Juarez is showing signs that the good guys are not prevailing. The Juarez newspaper, El Diario de Juarez, has cried uncle in its mixed stance of reporting the progress of the war. In the front page editorial that appeared recently, the editor waved the white flag and asked the cartels publicly what they want from him. The murder of a photographer and another reporter in the recent past are hitting far too close to home for him to continue to be a brave purveyor of the truth.
In a city ravaged by nearly 7,000 deaths since 2006 and the loss of as many as 40% of its businesses, the fear of the cartels is not a surprise. The only question the El Diario should have asked is should it be uncle or tio and should it be capitalized?
Can any American imagine the chaos that would occur in the United States if a city the size of Detroit had experienced the loss of 40% of its businesses and suffered twice the number of casualties that occurred on 9/11? Similarly, can any logical American buy the administration’s premise that border cities are safer than they have been in years?
Numbers never lie, but liars are gifted with numbers, right? Perhaps the logical place to be looking these days is not in the cities, but in the country where conflicting governmental policies and agendas have created physical voids now overrun with lawlessness.
The symptoms are not new
Retired Border Patrol officer, Zack Taylor, has a simple, logical point. “Nature abhors a vacuum. In the case of wilderness on the border, when you lock out or prohibit ordinary law enforcement activities in an area you invite illegal activity and create a safe haven for the criminal to operate.”
Mr. Taylor’s point is best exemplified not on the Mexican border, but in places inland like the Mendocino National Forest in California. How long ago did we first hear fragmented stories about the growth of marijuana businesses in those remote, federally controlled lands? It was years ago and that problem hasn’t gone away. In fact, within the last week Americans have been exposed to more news coverage of the same topic in California and Colorado many miles from the border. The question must be asked, “Where else is it happening and what is causing the problem?”
The answer to what is causing the problem is simple. The environmental movement and the cooperating and coordinating policies of federal land management agencies have created geographical vacuums where illegal activities are allowed to exist and expand. In the case of the most dangerous vacuums, those near the border, control has been seized by Mexican drug cartels. In the case of inland voids, the operational control is shared variously, but cartel influence there is expanding alarmingly.
The most dangerous sector
The most dangerous Border Patrol Sector is the Tucson Sector. Not long ago, the Tucson Sector was known as the sector where not much happened. It was in El Paso and San Diego that bad things happened.
A change in that situation started when then Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar and El Paso Sector Chief Sylvestre Reyes conceived the idea of “Hold the Line” that returned Border Patrol agents to the border. It was there, where in Reyes’ words, “(they) could look the illegals in the eyes” that they successfully stemmed the flow of illegals that were taking over El Paso.
The Hold the Line success carried over into a similar operation in the urban centers of southern California. It was there that the El Paso lessons were combined with stadium lighting and other high tech gadgetry to stem that tide of illegal immigration.
"Few could have predicted that the agenda of the environmental movement and the actions of the federal land management agencies would create a perfect conduit for the pipeline of drug flow into the United States."
It was in southern Arizona where similar actions failed. When the tactics were tried at Nogales, the illegal immigrants found the security of wilderness and administrative safe havens which allowed them to evade CBP surveillance and interdiction. Human and drug smuggling routes were altered and the El Paso, San Diego, and Yuma Sectors were no longer the preferred points of entry. That remains the case today.
Over the last 10 years, the Tucson Sector has had more investment by CBP than any other sector, but the facts suggest that progress has not only failed to match the success of other sectors the conditions have deteriorated. In 2009, nearly half of marijuana interdiction on the entire American border occurred in the Tucson Sector. Total drug flows were up and 2010 deaths among illegals will surpass the record death toll of 2005 when 282 bodies were found. This is all at a time when human smuggling is down dramatically.
The wilderness connection
The Fraternal Order of Police has for a number of years published a list of the 10 most dangerous parks. Consistently, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument directly on the Mexican border has been named the most dangerous “park” and it has become the poster child for the danger posed by border wilderness areas. The wilderness danger, though, is no longer just on the border.
Places like Lake Mead and Saguaro West (near Tucson) are now in the annual listings of areas that pose the most danger to the American public. Whereas the former doesn’t have wilderness the latter does. Both have large expanses of territory that make it difficult to maintain a constant law enforcement presence. Taylor’s “vacuum” bubbles up yet again and illegal activity fills that vacuum . . . every time.
Retired Border Patrol Sector Chief, Gene Wood, believes strongly that the border wilderness and safe haven corridors have had a profound effect on expansion of the drug trade. “We are continuing to recognize the impact these border corridors have had on not only Arizona, but the entire United States. When you interdict nearly half the marijuana intercepted across this country on just this border section, you must realize the implications of that. This border area has become the preferred point of entry. It is not only dangerous it has become an open wound in the American fight against drugs. It has affected the entire nation.”
Joe Dreyfuss, a fifth generation Arizonan, hosts a radio talk show from Tucson on Sunday evenings. In a recent show, Mr. Dreyfuss commented on hunting in the Chiracahua Mountains of southeastern Arizona. “I have hunted a particular area in those mountains on and off for 30 years and I will no longer hunt there. Local friends (ranchers) know where two permanent (drug) spotter locations are on a particular ridge and those guys are armed with night vision and automatic weapons. I will not hunt under conditions like that.”
Similar comments are made by a growing number of folks. Former Chief of Flight Operations, Border Patrol, Richard Hays, talks similarly about the Buenos Aires Wildlife Refuge area. “I used to hunt down there and love that country, but I wouldn’t hunt there now on a bet. It is overrun with cartel activity. It is a dangerous place.”
The observations of Taylor, Wood, Dreyfuss, Hays and others who have lived their lives and spent entire careers on the border are attempting to sound the alarm, and yet the lessons are being ignored by the leadership that represents the folks who are most affected.
In New Mexico, wilderness legislation introduced by Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall include border areas that duplicate Arizona conditions. If CBP enforcement activity is altered and constrained, there is every reason to believe that the same corridor expansion will occur on those lands. The Taylor vacuum will be introduced and the cartels will find the seam.
Federal land management connection
Few could have predicted that the agenda of the environmental movement and the actions of the federal land management agencies would create a perfect conduit for the pipeline of drug flow into the United States. The designation of wilderness seemed like an honorable and harmless endeavor except to the few Americans who were unfortunate enough to have duties, responsibilities, and private property rights in its footprint. Congressional leadership agreed and federal legislation was enacted.
Meanwhile, the drug trade was moved from Columbia to Mexico. The turf war that ensued escalated as the corridor growth into the lucrative United States market was developed. The urban centers were the initial ports of entry but that changed when American wilderness areas were discovered. The corridors created there allowed unlimited expansion of business and the turf war erupted into a revolution to control drug movement. Juarez became one of the primary battle grounds.
Today, the environmental groups and the cartels have a continuing mutual interest in the land. The wilderness areas and the large federally managed lands offer opportunities for each. To the environmental camp, the designation of wilderness remains the gold standard for preserving lands into perpetuity. To the cartel camp, the designation of wilderness is continuing to be the gold standard for delivering drugs across the border onto American sovereign territory.
Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. In his work on current border issues, he is becoming more convinced that the escalation of the First Mexican Revolution of the 21st Century has been expanded because of a similar expansion of the drug trade created by the Arizona smuggling corridors. “The Arizona Class corridors have created direct access onto sovereign American soil for the drug cartels while the United States Congress has played politics”.
Also see the following by Mr. Wilmeth:
Wilderness: Expansion and (Lawful) Beneficiary Use
Wilderness’ Economic Revolution – Catron County
And then, there were 10, but still no Champion
The Arizona Smuggling Corridors