January 16, 2019
A Mexican border snapshot from someone who knows

By Gary Schiff

Here is a U.S.-Mexican border snapshot.

The Coronado National Forest, in New Mexico and Arizona, shares a 53-mile border with Mexico. In 2010, the average number of illegals crossing through that 53-mile stretch were 35,000 per year, of which Customs and Border Protection (CBP) estimated catching about half. There was no effective barrier. Most of those they would catch would be ten miles north of the border on or near Interstate 10, which effectively created a 500-square-mile-plus no man's land of public space, unsafe for entry by the general public. The ranchers who had private land within the area had significant security problems and property damage and were concerned about their families' safety. There was considerable evidence of heartbreaking human-trafficking of young women and a lot of drug-smuggling. We know that individuals who were being sent to illegally grow pot on the National Forests across the nation were coming across through this 53-mile stretch of remote border. Many were armed.

The illegals who were leading these groups would frequently light brushfires, which the Forest Service fire crews would chase. They were purposely lit as diversions so the illegals could move people without being caught. Any time the Forest Service firefighters responded to wildfires, they had to have armed law enforcement folks accompanying them, because many of those bringing the illegals had assault weapons.

Compassionate local citizens would distribute thousands of plastic water bottles, which may have helped some on a humanitarian level but added to another issue: the 500-square-mile area was trashed.

I am aware that during that year, CBP did find a Koran on at least one occasion as well as other documents in Arabic.

A fence would have been effective in most of the area Ė though there were places where the steep terrain would make construction a greater challenge. Without a physical barrier, agents have to chase people down, often on foot, after they cross.

There are those who say we need comprehensive immigration reform, including allowing many more immigrants, because the U.S. birth rate is less than replacement. There are those who say a twenty-billion-dollar wall is not necessarily the best barrier and that less expensive barriers are available. They may have valid points.

And there are those who minimize these problems and the reported violent murders caused by gang members who do enter illegally. There are those who compare these deaths to nonviolent causes of death in order to minimize the importance of addressing the border issue. There are those who say this is all about political victories and not about real issues.

They are wrong. This situation cries out for our attention.

Mr. Schiff is a retired Forest Service employee. He has seen the border firsthand and represented agency law enforcement leadership on Capitol Hill, including developing testimony for hearings on the topic. He also worked for the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee and heard the personal testimony of ranchers and on-the-ground law enforcement officers.