Sunday, September 25, 2011

Security or Open Borders

Security or Open Borders
Desert Duty
Substance over Symbolism
By Stephen L. Wilmeth 

     If there is a model that illustrates the largesse and corruption of government, the Mexican border is a place to look. It is land where the needs of American citizens have always played second fiddle to politics in Washington. 
     Following the Mexican American War, the citizens of south Texas knew that the war was over only by the headlines from newspapers.  In order to survive, frontier families who endured theft, murder, and cross border raiding continued to defend their property just as they had before that conflict was fought.
     The Texas Rangers, who had been formed to defend frontier families from Indians, were constantly being reformed and propped up with limited funds to deal with the border violence.  Efforts to seek reimbursement or, better yet, help from the United States were an ongoing dilemma.
    In an example of the frustration, an event took place on the edge of the Big Bend before the turn of the 20th Century.  A rancher who made his living selling mules and horses to the United States cavalry was one of many Americans who endured the systematic chaos of cross border violence.  In order to protect his enterprise, he built a compound that provided protection from raids, but he had grown tired of the onslaught. 
    To fix the problem, the rancher commissioned a cannon be built, and, simultaneously, put the word out that he sought a truce from the hostilities.  He suggested that on a certain date, all parties should converge at his ranch for a fiesta.  All would be forgotten and everybody would leave as friends. 
     When the big day arrived, they gathered and the fiesta began.  There was much merriment.  At mealtime, the host called his guests into the dining hall.  A toast was offered.  As a special honor to his guests, he directed their attention to the end of the hall.  At that point a curtain was drawn and there sat that cannon!  As the guests absorbed the sight, the fuse was lit and the weapon was discharged. The chain, nails, glass, and rocks loaded in that big gun raked the dining hall.  The rancher’s border problem was solved!
     From the old salt
     Today, that silent, vigilant gun sits in that same narrow hall.  It reminds all of the frustration that continues to exist on the border.  Was the frustration of Texas then any different from the frustration of Arizona today?  As in those days, the same condescension emanates from Washington, and the Americans who face the problems are left attempting to seek resolution.
      In their book, Desert Duty, Bill Broyles and Mark Haynes chronicle the Border Patrol on the border.  Short biographies are centered on select officials who dealt with the politics during the time of the escalating environmental movement and the resulting expansion of the Arizona smuggling corridors.
     What makes the book interesting is the format.  The characters tell their own stories.  Most are retired and their accounts are based on objective assessment of their careers and what they fear for the future. 
    Coauthor and former Yuma Sector Assistant Chief, Mark Haynes, offered a most poignant overview of the situation.  He said, “. . . Congress and . . . our own agency seemed bent on handcuffing us instead of the aliens we were sworn to apprehend . . . Border Patrol was second-tier in a second tier (line of defense).” 
     Such frustration was universal except one agent who spent much of his career in assignments other than facing actual border dangers. Those who spent their careers on the border were loyal to a brotherhood that succeeded through supporting each other and lessons learned. 
     Joe Brigman, a native of Ajo, Arizona, concludes, “Things (were) done for specific reasons. Old-time Border Patrol agents have looked and modified and fine-tuned this beast to the point that’s the way the job gets done.”
     In a circumstance whereby a new assistant chief was going to terminate long standing Border Patrol interaction with local law enforcement agencies, then Yuma Sector Chief, Jim Switzer, intervened and disallowed the short sighted act.  To this day, Mr. Switzer’s actions continue to pay dividends in that sector.  He fit the mold of a leader rather than a boss.
    The political quagmire thickens
    Strategies, loyalty to the Patrol, and dedication to their pledge have kept the Patrol intact, but there are concerns.  Glen Payne wrote, “I retired at an opportune time.  Every thing now is really, really political.  It’s hard to get your job done and stay out of trouble, the way things are now.”  He also worries about the new breed of illegal. They have become belligerent, demand rights they don’t have, and present new and constant danger.
     There are many who believe that the Border Patrol has been fighting a much bigger foe than the one they face on the border.  As an organization it is being altered by a leadership that seems to pass from pragmatic and determined to worldly and idealistic as soon as duty assignments are changed from the sector to Washington, D.C.
     Faced with a mountain of statutes that are surpassed only in complexity by those of the IRS, it is an organization whose administration seems willing to make Sector operations tiptoe through mine fields of regulations.  As a result, it reverts to things like interagency MOUs to operate around and within the expanse of federal lands on the border that limit access and constrain its mission.
     It is also an organization that appears to be managed by a changing guard . . . the old guard versus the David Aguilar cadre of appointed leaders.  It is within this latter group that testifies to the American people that the Border Patrol is good enough to deal with all border issues regardless of constraints.  It is the old guard that says that the Border Patrol cannot be constrained on the most dangerous of all borders.
     Where is Black Jack Pershing when you need him
     Led by the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers, many believe this is not a new world and Washington remains the biggest danger to the southern border.  The Border Patrol has had to rely on its strength gained from Station unity and leadership and that unity has been compromised by the environmental agenda.
      While successive administrations have waxed eloquently on border issues, the Arizona border has become the most dangerous border in the world.  Juarez has become the most dangerous city in the world. As a result, how can any American leader elevate an environmental agenda over the defense of the border?
     In his contribution to the book retired agent, Ron Colburn, described his duties in Washington relating to the changes in the Border Patrol with more than a hint of pride in his influences and accomplishments.  He ended stating how he could cross the street from his office to visit the statue of Black Jack Pershing.  He described to visitors that Black Jack was the “first” guy to enforce border security.    
    The U.S. Army’s Black Jack Pershing may have been the first to wear Colburn’s description of the Patrol’s green uniform, but he wasn’t the first to enforce border security.  Men like Jack Hays were “cleaning pistols and grindin’ knives” and leading Texas Rangers in the protection of the border long before Black Jack.  What Black Jack shared with men like Jack Hays and Big Foot Wallace, though, was a strong conviction that every obstacle put in place to hinder his men’s effectiveness in their sworn duty to their country, like designated wilderness along the border where mechanical entry is not allowed, was to be reviled and overturned.
     Colburn has publicly supported more border wilderness on behalf of the Obama administration and the Wilderness Society network of organizations.  His actions don’t resemble the single mindedness of leaders like Pershing.  The attempts to placate the environmental movement and allow the expansion of federal land designations that restrict access to lands on our modern border have benefited only the cartels. 
     Former Chief of Flight Operations, Hank Hays, described the irony.  “They’ve got so many little politicians up there (Washington), wanting to get their agendas done, that the actual enforcement is not the priority.  They tell the media that it is, but that’s not happening. Many of them are furthering their own personal agendas . . . enforcement is the furthest thing from their mind, and most of them don’t have a clue what needs to be done.”  
     Perhaps the Hays’ comments may be lost on politicians, but not on Americans whose lives and property are affected.  Symbolism rather than uncompromised words of substance remains the problem on the border, and  . . .  that problem must be fixed.

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico.  “This is a pretty simple issue.  It is either one master or the other.  You can’t have it both ways.  It is either national security or environmentalism with open borders.”


Praise to Steve for another fine column, but I think he’s too gentle with Ron Colburn.

Let’s not forget Colburn has endorsed Bingaman’s bill to designate as Wilderness 242,000 acres on or near our border with Mexico. At the behest of the wilderness advocates, he even came to Las Cruces to discuss the issue. Let’s also remember as recently as May of this year Colburn came out in opposition to H.R. 1505 which would give the Border Patrol unfettered access to federal lands up to 100 miles from the border.

I’ve never met Colburn, haven’t read his piece in the book, but based on his public statements and actions, there are only three conclusions one could reach about him:

1. He is so starry-eyed over his "leadership" role in negotiating the 1996 MOU he fails to see its many inadequacies, or
2. He is ignorant of the prohibited acts section of the Wilderness Act and of the fact you cannot amend a statute by administrative action such as an MOU, or
3. He has bought into the environmental agenda and is happy to do their bidding.

You take your pick, but none of them are attractive.


G. Patton, III said...

Well, Mr. DuBois why don't you just come out and call him what you really want to call him?

Border Watcher said...

Colburn and his politico cronies also figuratively clear cut thousands of acres of Arizona forests this summer. The Murphy Complex and the Horseshoe Complex can be added to their environmental accomplishments. Along with the Forest Service the Border Patrol is doing its best to burn this country to the ground.

Anonymous said...

The question begs to be asked. Is Hank related to Texas Jack Hays? The names are spelled the same and from what I know about them both is that they are physically similar with a high pitched voice when they get agitated. Hank is becoming a legend in the Border Patrol annuls. Texas Jack similarly in the Rangers.

Anonymous said...

First in line, first to speak, and first to pat himself on the back. That is the MO on our boy Colburn.

Anonymous said...

Yes, yes, yes, and yes!!!!
PS: YES!!!!