Thursday, February 12, 2015

Arizona Border Patrol

We had a great presentation given by two border patrol officers from the Naco station! It was informative, but also a depressing look into a darker side of life. I will be recounting some of the information given from memory and hopefully with more accuracy than not! I learned that we are in the border patrol's Tucson Sector. As Americans full of a sense of freedom, it came as a bit of a shock to our psyches to think of being in a patrolled sector while at home in the U.S.A.!
We are staying at Tombstone Territories R.V. Park, which is eight mile east on highway 82 between Huachuca City and Tombstone, AZ. We are located at least 60 miles from the border of Mexico! The yellow square is our approximate location. The orange squares are approximate locations of U.S. Customs/Border Patrol checkpoints on the highways in our vicinity. Check points are naturally located along the U.S./Mexico border at points of entry, but are also located 60-75 miles into the U.S. all across Arizona. The American Civil Liberties Union reports that southern Arizona has 11 checkpoints located away from the border. This has been a point of contention for not only the residents of southern Arizona, but retirees Wintering in Arizona. There has been an outcry to keep border patrol checkpoints on the borders. The questioning at border checkpoints that are away from the border has been so offensive to some American's sense of freedom that they are choosing to no longer Winter in southern Arizona and are spending their dollars elsewhere! Roy and I have already discussed not returning to areas of Arizona with an interior U.S. checkpoint present.    
Highway 82 is very active with border patrol trucks. They will be sitting facing the road and we presume they are monitoring something such as familiarity of vehicle traffic.  
They are also seen cruising the ATV trails along barb wire fenced desert areas. I asked if the trails and fencing were established by border patrol and was told that they weren't.
An observation blimp floats above the community of Sierra Vista. We were told that it scans for illegal aircraft coming over the mountains from Mexico. The picture shown is from the Internet and the community was unidentified. 
We occasionally see low flying drones over the desert.
There are also helicopters flying low, as if searching.
Horses are utilized, but we haven't seen them. Officers use hunting techniques to track illegal aliens much like any type of hunting. They watch for footprints, paths, broken branches, trodden plants, and anything left along the way.
ATV's are used. There are thousands of miles of ATV trails reported to be in the area. Some areas are so remote that officers take one week shifts staying in camps, so as to eliminate the commute time. Officers often work alone with back-up as far as 30 miles away. The Tucson Sector has had 4 officers killed in the last 18 years.
We were told that much of the border patrol's activities are at night. They have infrared binoculars that can spot images 5 miles away! They watch for straight line movement as animals tend to meander. Groups as large as of 30-50 illegal aliens have been apprehended traversing the desert!
They are reported to often times be relieved at having been rescued and to ask if a search can be made for loved ones that have collapsed along the way from dehydration, lack of nourishment, physical exhaustion, and the extreme cold or heat! It is a sad fact that the individuals hired to guide them from Mexico into the U.S. will lie to the people about the distance, as their only concern is collecting the money! We were told there were even illegal aliens being held hostage in the U.S. by their guides for more money than the original arrangement called for. Guides given money to transport children won't always take them to the predetermined destination, but will sell them for even more profit! There are Mexican bandits that will rob and rape their own people as they attempt the desert crossing into the U.S.! There are drug cartels that rule the Mexican border that say when and where aliens can make their crossings, as they don't want attention called to the areas of their drug operations. It's all a very sad and ugly side of life in the southwestern deserts!
Some Americans in the southwest feeling both a fear and compassion for desperate humans approaching them for supplies will leave jugs of water and food outside their home for the taking! It's an uneasy feeling that goes beyond the feel of desperate people creeping around at night, but a chance encounter as they bed down in rural areas for the day. There is also a wariness of a chance drug related encounter. We occasionally see signs posted in rural areas by border patrol warning the public to be aware of their surroundings and a contact number to report suspicious activity. These aren't feelings that one generally associates with rural living in other parts of the country!
Here is a statistics chart for the Tucson Sector regarding illegal alien apprehensions, deaths, and rescues from 2010-August 2013. The presenting border patrol officers said that prior to the improved border fencing that has come about in the last 5 years, 1,000 illegal aliens were being apprehended on each shift of a 3 shift day! They had no choice but to just send them back to Mexico, as there weren't enough hours in the day to do the 2 hours of paperwork per capture required! 
Roy and I find the thought of northbound trips from our current location requiring a checkpoint clearance oppressive. We have only been through the larger checkpoint on highway 90 between Sierra Vista and Benson once. There is the feel that you want to present yourself in a way that won't cause you to be hassled for some unknown reason. We were traveling with another couple and I leaned forward from the backseat to look out the window at the beautiful but intense German Shepherd an officer off to the side was holding. As I did so I quickly found that wasn't a good thing to do! The officer tensed, the dog alerted, and I saw the officer's hand drop to his weapon! The check point in the picture is from the Internet and the location is not known. The canopy style checkpoint is similar to the one on highway 90 north out of Sierra Vista.  
There is another checkpoint that can be seen from the intersection of highway 82 and highway 80, just north of the intersection on highway 80. Highway 80 going south from the intersection is the route taken when going to Tombstone. We haven't been through the checkpoint, but see it every time we go into Tombstone. One woman at the presentation asked what would happen if an officer asked to search her vehicle trunk and she refused. We were told that the checkpoints are set-up with x-ray equipment and density detecting machines that they have the right to use without a search warrant. The drug dogs are trained to detect as many as 100 substances.

With marijuana getting harder for drug cartels to bring into the U.S., there is more of it being grown in the national forests! There are also more methamphetamines being brought into the U.S., as a large quantity of it fits in a fairly small box. The drug dogs can detect it.

As stated earlier, it's a difficult concept as an American to think of being in a patrolled sector, but in fact, the whole United States is divided into sectors! In our focus on illegal aliens and drug smuggling along the Mexico border it's easy to forget that the government is also protecting our borders from terrorists. Going about our lives with the freedoms we have it is easy not to contemplate the logistics of people trying to invade the United States and that if one border is weak in it's security that illegal aliens from any country as well as drug smugglers can enter from a border other than the one adjoining their country! I'm glad I attended the presentation, even if I've become a little wiser and a bit sadder for my increased knowledge of a darker side of life.