Thursday, September 05, 2013

Assault on NPS employee highlights danger along U.S.-Mexico border

Federal and local law enforcement are still trying to determine whether an assault on a uniformed maintenance worker at Chiricahua National Monument last week was related to cross-border activity at the southeast Arizona park, which is on a route known to be used by human traffickers and drug runners about 60 miles from the Mexican border. Karen Gonzales, 60, continues to recover this week in a hospital after having been attacked and left unconscious in a picnic-area restroom last Wednesday. Gonzales' government vehicle was recovered, hours after the assault, in the town of Douglas, which is across the border from Agua Prieta, Mexico. Yesterday, the local sheriff's office released photos of three suspects who were seen in the area in the days leading up to the attack. Even if a cross-border connection isn't found in the assault, the summer of 2013 has already been a busy one for cross-border activity on national parkland, with several incidents highlighting the dangers faced by Interior Department employees who work along the front lines of the United States' border battle. One park that has became a hot spot for illegal border crossings is Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona. The most notable incident occurred in 2003, when park ranger Kris Eggle was killed as he worked with Border Patrol agents trying to catch suspects in a drug-related murder. But according to a 2009 report from the nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association, the park became a hotbed for illegal cross-border activity. From 2007 to 2009, park rangers arrested and indicted 385 felony smugglers, seized 40,000 pounds of marijuana and intercepted 3,800 illegal aliens at Organ Pipe Cactus, according to the report, titled "Perilous Parklands." Today, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument continues to be a target of illegal activity. On June 30, rangers set up an observation post along Highway 85 at a traffic stop near the park visitor center. A search led to the discovery of five women, all illegal aliens, hidden under camping gear in the back of a small SUV. Rangers also pursued and arrested a seventh person who was believed to be a scout who guided the women to the SUV driver. The driver, a U.S. citizen, was arrested and believed to be involved in a human trafficking ring run out of California. "This incident is an example of targeted enforcement based on recent trends in illegal trafficking that is part of daily operations at the park," an Organ Pipe Cactus incident report stated. Along with the dangers related to illegal activity, the uptick in illegal crossings on protected federal lands has taken an environmental toll...more

And they want Obama to establish a 600,000 acre national monument on the border here in Dona Ana County?  Read the article and you will see why Sheriff Garrison, The Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Retired Border Patrol Officers and others are opposing this proposal.  Click on the links to see their letters of opposition, or go here for a list of all the letters.

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