Sunday, July 29, 2012
Hays and Manjarrez
Remember Arizona Class Smuggling Corridors?
Hays and Manjarrez
Playing defense in the Red Zone
By Stephen L. Wilmeth
The Las Cruces City Council chambers were packed for the discussion of endorsing 600,000 acres of national monument in Dona Ana County, New Mexico. The Council voted 6-0 in favor of the resolution endorsing the proposal. Their vote joined an existing 5-0 vote for a similar supporting measure from that county’s board of County Commissioners.
The Council now has two parallel resolutions for the matter of trying anything and everything to get elevated federal protective measures plastered on the lands of the county. Their other supporting measure was aimed at the pending S.1024 from New Mexico senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall. This former version of the twin bill attack (or is it the latter?) supports something under 400,000 acres of a combination of designated Wilderness and National Conservation Area buffers.
Odds makers would have a field day with the likelihood this Council would endorse any and all measures that would chase this concept. Councilor Sharon Thomas noted she didn’t want to confuse the two issues by cross collateralizing the Council’s intention with qualifying language … Huh?
In the comments from the councilors totally ignoring the 32 opposing responses of the 49 total public comments, Councilor Olga Pedroza’s was the most revealing. She spoke to the point made by the retired Border Patrol Sector Chief’s comments about terrorist threats relating to the border. She chastised the assemblage for even suggesting the idea that the monument proposal posed a threat to national security. Furthermore, she never wanted to hear the suggestion of terrorist threats mentioned in that chamber again!
Playing Defense in the Red Zone
Back in round three of this seven year long political game of gotcha, the senior senator from the state of New Mexico, Jeff Bingaman, rolled out his S.1689 which attempted to save 259,050 acres of lands for the future. One of the major objections to the bill was wilderness designation in the footprint of the one of the three parts of the measure that was nearest the border.
The objection centered on border areas of safe haven and the Border Patrol’s inability to patrol them adequately. The staffs of Senator Bingaman and the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance quickly minimized such rationale noting that a MOU signed in 2006 between the secretaries of the departments of Interior, Agriculture, and Homeland Security had resolved the dispute.
The dispute centered upon what the senator stated wasn’t a problem in the first place and that was the danger emanating from border wilderness. “Wilderness isn’t causative (of increasing border insecurity),” he counseled.
Retired Border Patrol officials strongly disagreed with the premise. Members and board officials from the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers denounced the logic from their experience on the ground. They were ignored by the senator and they were minimized by the press.
Viewed now in a historical perspective, the senator and the proponents of the bill argued that the MOU, with its protocol for negotiating access aside from matters of hot pursuit, took care of the very problem they maintained never existed … legislative restrictions on the Border Patrol to assure protection of the border.
Interestingly, the senator changed his proposal by reshaping the boundary nearest the border giving the Border Patrol a five mile buffer to operate. The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance promoted the concept the senator’s actions strengthened security of the entire border.
Former Chief of Border Patrol Flight Operations, Richard Hays, has an interesting take on the five mile buffer. “It’s nothing more than forcing the Border Patrol to play defense in the Red Zone,” Hays described this week.
Hays’ comment is enormously intriguing. It refers to metrics admitted by the Border Patrol in securing the border. Statistically, if illegals are not caught in the most critical buffer … 25 miles … they don’t get caught. Taking away 20 miles of the 25 mile buffer in the Bingaman bill puts the Border Patrol in a very vulnerable position.
“It’s no different than making the current Super Bowl champion play defense starting on or inside their 20 (yard line) next season,” Hays continued. “The Border Patrol may be good, but they’re not that good.”
Bingaman’s bill … and the national monument proposal both force the Border Patrol to give up 80% of the playing field in that all important buffer zone!
MOU look back
The last document signed by then Secretary of Interior, Gale Norton, was the now infamous 2006 MOU. The document resulted from the interagency battle that has been waged between the federal land management agencies and the Border Patrol on about 90 miles of Arizona border for over a decade. At issue was access to federal lands on the border.
“For a long time, we just thought it was a turf war with the Park Service,” Hays said.
He and others now know it was the land agency management policies that came from the dictates of the Wilderness Act of 1964 and the expansion of what must be described as de facto wilderness management mentality and policy. He remembers vividly the Park Service Ranger at Organ Pipe National Monument warning him that he would be ticketed and prosecuted if he landed a helicopter for any reason in designated Wilderness within the monument.
“I told him if he tried to pull that on me I’d arrest him and haul him in front of a federal magistrate to resolve the issue,” Hays recalls.
That is exactly the environment that has existed on the border. That was also the issue at stake when then Border Patrol Headquarters Division Chief for Policy, Victor Manjarrez, was assigned to conceptualize and negotiate a document that would resolve the access impasse.
“Secretary Norton was really good to work with when we started that process,” Manjarrez remembers. “She knew the problem.”
The matter appears to have been such a problem the Secretary would not leave her office until something was accomplished to halt the interagency war.
“The MOU was the last document she signed,” he stated. “It was very important to her that she conclude the matter.”
Has it worked?
“No,” Manjarrez continued. “Good intentions often fail miserably …”
On the day of the Las Cruces City Council meeting, the now retired Victor Manjarrez walked to the dais to offer his expert opinion on the matter of protected lands adjacent to the border. Since 2006, Mr. Manjarrez had added a bit more resume to his dossier. He had been named Sector Chief of the Border Patrol’s El Paso Sector. His accomplishments there elevated him by one assessment to the position of ‘Golden Boy” within the agency.
With his accomplishments, his growing reputation and the chaos continuing in the Tucson Sector, he was transferred to Tucson as that Sector’s new Sector Chief. Did Victor Manjarrez succeed at Tucson?
No, his MOU, and … his stance on principle blackened his eye and his relationship with the Border Patrol hierarchy.
Today, private citizen Manjarrez works as an expert in homeland security system applications world wide. He will soon have yet another graduate degree in homeland security systems design as well. The border remains to him a primary focus.
Mr. Manjarrez was not allowed to conclude his presentation to the Council when he was cut off by Mayor Ken Miyagashima. Because of the importance of that testimony it appears herein below in its entirety. It is important America understands the implications. His testimony is as follows:
Although throughout my career I served in various locations along the southwest border and Washington, DC, I was considered a subject matter expert within the Department of Homeland Security in border security operations in Arizona.
I will tell you that years of neglect in Arizona facilitated the ability of criminal organizations to exploit the border. In addition, many geographical features and legislative decisions non-intentionally helped facilitate the movement, concealment, and effectiveness of these same criminal enterprises when they would operate in southern Arizona. Many of these impediments infringed on the 25 mile statutory authority afforded Border Patrol agents. This authority allows Border Patrol Agents to enter any private lands within 25 miles of the border for the purpose of performing their duties and is critical in maintaining border security (the author notes here that the same 25 mile authority to enter private lands does not apply to federal lands. The Border Patrol can go anywhere they want at any time without notice within that 25 mile buffer (ostensibly) on private land, but don’t have the same authority on all federal land).
Over half of the Arizona border lies within some form of a protected land that is either managed by the Federal or state government. These protected lands provide concealment and facilitate the movement of criminal organizations that have endangered the residents of the United States and will continue to do so as long as the Border Patrol is restricted from executing its duties to the full extent of the law.
Not only do these protected areas make the job of border security extremely difficult they are a magnet to the criminal element which often does significant damage to these pristine areas. Ask the manager of Organ Pipe Monument or the manager of Buenos Aires refuge … they will tell you how these areas are nearly ruined because of the unintended consequences of providing a safe haven and corridor of travel for the criminal element.
There are some that will tell you that the (2006) Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Interior allows the Border Patrol to operate as they should on protected lands and in spirit and intention it does … but in practicality it FAILS MISERABLY. You see, DOI has a difficult mission of protecting our natural resources and providing services. One portion of DOI, the law enforcement side, appreciates and understands that along with protecting our natural resources we must increase our homeland security efforts within these protected areas, but unfortunately they are a small portion of DOI and most of the time they are overruled by the other side of the house in DOI.
Others will claim that the areas being proposed are “far too north to be of a concern to border security” and they are WRONG. The city of Phoenix is approximately 180 miles north of the border from Nogales, Arizona and law enforcement still locates what is referred to as ‘open air staging areas’. These ‘open air staging areas’ are simply spots in the desert near a city with bus lines, interstates (highways) and other modes of transportation which allow the criminal element to blend in with the local residents. A protected area near a border city only invites the criminal element to exploit the area …
Before you take action to support ANY proposed protected area please consider the fact that the Tucson Sector has received unprecedented resources in terms of agents, technology, and border infrastructure, yet they still led the nation in arrests with nearly 124,000 arrests last year while the El Paso Sector managed just over 10,000 arrests. Also, business leaders in Tucson and Phoenix will tell you that the perception of an uncontrolled and chaotic border in Arizona has hurt their business opportunities.
Let us make sure we help protect our own backyard by not providing the criminal element an incentive to exploit our border region. Please find balance of protecting our natural resources and enabling our homeland security officials to effectively execute their duties”.
Earlier in the day of the Council action, both Hays and Manjarrez were on a local Las Cruces radio program. They were asked how dangerous the Bingaman legislation or the proposed national monument could be based upon their experience and knowledge of border security.
Hays’ response was most pointed. “It could be the most dangerous smuggling corridor in the nation,” he said.
The rationale was that it would match all of the characteristics of the Arizona corridors. In addition, it has closer proximity to I10 and the ultramodern rail line that forms part of the boundary on the footprint nearest the border (the Potrillo Mountain portion) and the federal land north from that entry point is essentially unlimited.
How far north does that go? “A clear shot all the way to the Colorado border…” was the Hays conclusion.
Defense in the red zone and a clear shot to the Colorado border … perhaps America should take the issue of terrorists and border security just a bit more serious than have the Dona Ana County Commission, and … the Las Cruces City Council.
Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “Hays and Manjarrez remain as puzzled at the mentality of the environmental left as the rest of us. The ‘Left’s’ September 10th mindset of our borders is going to get us all into deeper trouble.”