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Soldier of Fortune: The U.S./Mexican Border Has Become a Sieve of Death
The U.S./Mexican Border Has Become a Sieve of Death

Soldier of Fortune Magazine

This article is courtesy of Soldier of Fortune, a military/adventure publication. The magazine specializes in first-person reporting from armed conflicts around the globe, with emphasis on current military activities, developments, special units, weapons, tactics, politics and history. Its writers include experienced professionals, including former military and frequent Soldier of Fortune readers.

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By Martin Brass

Soldier of Fortune Magazine

Illegals Face a Gauntlet of Doom: The Border Patrol Faces Dopers, Terrorists, and the Desperate Victims of Coyotes.

The 2,100 mile southern border of the U.S., with its treacherous mountain ranges, canyons, rivers and deserts, has become an uncontrollable stretch of violence, death, rape and exploitation.

Over a decade ago, SOF rode with Border Patrol Agents in Arizona when the situation already seemed out of hand. One of those agents, now retired, recently contacted SOF with a disturbing and frustrated update, reflecting the deterioration of the Mexico-United States border.

"In my career, spanning three decades, many of my friends and partners were killed on duty, enforcing immigration laws, and are listed on our honor rolls. Their deaths, and devotion to duty, are beyond politicians' ability to understand, it seems, and are without meaning. This past year the Patrol has arrested a million illegals, with twelve to fourteen million in country, home free. Mexican military incursions, escorting narcotics, are commonplace. Rival alien smuggling organizations thrive in Arizona, and politicians pander, and grovel to Mexico's demands, in a time of war."

Vulture-like smugglers, drug gangs, entrepreneurs, and corrupt officials cash in on human smuggling into the United States, which has become a multi-billion dollar business.

Refugees from Mexico, and worldwide, come by foot, across blistering hot sand, and are then crammed into trucks and trailers. They wade through the New River, the most polluted river in the United States, to avoid immigration agents. They swim through raw sewage, slaughterhouse remains, and pesticide runoff. They are stuffed in suitcases. Hundreds have died in the Rio Grande.

The more fortunate ones take the faster route, buying their own tickets in Mexico for around $200. Others are flown in by coyotes, and trafficked throughout the United States. Mexicana, the Mexican stateowned airline, opened a direct flight several years ago from Oaxaca to Hermosillo, with a stop in Mexico City. With three flights a day, Mexicana station manager Jorge Carrillos estimates that half of 290 daily passengers are heading for the United States.

Three other airlines, originating in Vera Cruz and Chiapas, fly illegal immigrants (mojados) to the United States. Migrants tell of being assaulted, robbed or overcharged because they are thought to be carrying lots of money," says the Arizona Daily Star.

CNN reports that in the year 2000, during one of many illegal immigration crackdowns at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, and at McCarran Airport in Las Vegas, within just a few hours, one hundred INS agents apprehended a hundred illegals being smuggled to Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas and the East Coast.

Unfortunate Pilgrims

The flood of humans includes many other than Mexican (OTM). Apprehensions of OTMs have increased 42 percent according to Border Patrol spokesperson Rene' Noriega. Migrants come from El Salvador, Cuba, Haiti, the former Soviet Union, Asia, and the Middle East. Most illegal aliens pay their trafficker, from $1,500, up to $50,000 for their journeys.

A Border Patrol agent confirmed, to Warriors for the Truth, that nine Yemenis attempting to enter the United States after 9-11, "can't get a coyote to transport them, and they are offering $30,000 per person with no takers."

"The further the smuggling route, the higher the fee. Smugglers often guarantee success for the high prices they charge, promising to give passage back into the United States to those who are apprehended in route and sent back. Some keep that promise while other smugglers let the customers die in a box car or in the trunk or under the hood of a car," says veteran Border Patrol official J. William Carter.

Illegal immigration busts have doubled this year in Arizona. Two thousand and thirty-eight are being apprehended daily. Yuma agents have captured more than 43,000 this year, a one-third increase over last year.

Witnesses express their outrage and disgust at the destruction left behind by the endless parade of illegal migrants.

Take a border town in Arizona, Whetstone, near the "epicenter of an invasion of contraband and humanity that is unrivaled throughout the western world. Trails are worn into the earth by tens of thousands of human travelers. Landowner fences are either cut by illegal migrants and their smugglers, or bent over and torn down completely.

"So heavy is the illegal smuggling traffic in some parts of Whetstone, Arizona 'suburbs' that local residents have constructed roadblocks made of scrub brush and branches. The smell in many areas is overwhelming, especially in the heat of the summer. The amount of refuse is astounding," says wnd.com.

Elsewhere, in the backcountry, "the foot traffic is so heavy it has the ambience of a garbage dump and smells like an outdoor privy. In places, the land is littered a foot deep with bottles, cans, disposable diapers, sanitary napkins, panties, clothes, backpacks, human feces, used toilet paper, pharmacy bottles and syringes," reports Warriors for the Truth.

Silent Invasion, Deadly Consequences

"This is a sad, continuing story, particularly in those states that border on Mexico, where we witness a steady, silent, pervasive invasion of the United States by an unarmed army carrying an assembly line of diseases into the heart of America," George Putnam reports in Newsmax.com. He cites "Immigration's Silent Invasion, Deadly Consequences", researched by a registered nurse and a former U.S. Army Medical Service Corps officer. The research presents a "frightening study of how the hordes" of illegals invading our nation have reintroduced tuberculosis, leprosy, smallpox and Chagas disease. Chagas, a parasite, kills 50,000 annually and has infected 18 million people in Latin America. It damages the heart and intestines and may infect through blood transfusions.

"The most serious is multi-drugresistant TB, spread through the air by an infected person. Each TB patient is said to infect ten to twenty others. More than 7,000 new cases of leprosy have been diagnosed in the U.S. in the past three years. The Queens, NY Health Department diagnosed eightyone TB cases among illegals, and concluded that foreigners have an eightfold higher incidence of TB, and that two-thirds of imported cases come from Mexico, the Philippines and Vietnam," reports Newsmax.

"The Dying Season" began in the deserts in the spring of 2003, just as it does every spring, when eighteen Mexicans and Central Americans were found by Native Americans of the Tohono O'odham Nation on their reservation in Southern Arizona," their report concludes.

"The pilgrims begin their journeys, or return to the United States, after holidays in January, February and March, when the Border Patrol prepares for the biggest influx.

"They drown, they die of the desert heat, they die of hypothermia" Miguel Reyes, a protection officer for Mexico's foreign ministry in south Texas told Reuters.

"There is a belief that if you cross in the desert that the snakes will not cross the railroad tracks" Reyes said. Six Mexican immigrants who believed that sleeping on railroad tracks would protect them from poisonous snakes were crushed by a freight train near Norias TX in 1998. Their mangled bodies, smashed with cans of beans and tortillas, were unidentifiable.

The tales are endless.

Thirteen immigrants nearly suffocated in a sweltering 140 degrees inside a boxcar in San Antonio TX before they could struggle out. The rotting bodies of seven of them were found under a tree a week later.

Smugglers hire truck drivers to smuggle their human cargos over the border, and from state to state. A passerby on U.S. Highway 77, outside of Victoria TX, called the police to report a hand, waving a bandana out of a hole in the back of a white 18-wheeler, in 2003. "A flood of human beings" spilled out, said U.S. Attorney Michael Shelby. Eighteen out of 100 Mexicans, El Salvadorans, Guatemalans and Hondurans were asphyxiated in a trailer abandoned by three traffickers. The trailer was registered to Tyron Williams of Schenectady, NY, who was later arrested.

Lone Coyotes and Syndicates

Felipe de Jesus Preciado Coronado, head of Mexico's National Immigration Institute told the Washington Post that the government has identified at least 57 organized smuggling bands. Jim Chaparro, head of the anti-smuggling office at U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, INS - abolished in March, 2003 and incorporated into the Department of Homeland Security - said that the small and informal smuggling business has evolved into a powerful web of "literally hundreds of syndicates, some at a low level and some at the kingpin level… Gangs are ripping off aliens from other smugglers and holding aliens captive until they sell them to a buyer." Drug smugglers have turned to alien smuggling.

Prices for transport have increased dramatically, partially to pay for high-tech equipment. Encrypted radios, cell phones, and the internet, used for warning of patrolling U.S. agents have replaced the flashlights that were once used to cross the Rio Grande.

Those that charge the most offer computer generated fake documents, or stolen visas and passports. Migrants from Asia and Europe pay far more than Mexicans -- upwards of $50,000 to get in U.S.

"The flow of illegals has become much more organized, and that has opened the opportunity for these groups to market their services to non-Mexicans," Armand Peschard Sverdrup, director of the Mexico project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies told the Post.

Arrests of coyotes have been publicized for years. A cursory examination of the records of Office of the United States District of Arizona alone reveals numerous arrests monthly this year.

Four Smugglers were arrested after a four-month investigation of the Raul Green and Jose Humberto Marquez human trafficking organization in February 2004. Cesar Balderas-Grandos, a Mexican citizen was convicted of trafficking after a U.S. Border Patrol agent saw the knees and elbows of humans bouncing in the bed of his truck.

Grandos refused to stop. He was arrested after a multi- Border Patrol unit high-speed chase. Eleven undocumented aliens were in the bed of the truck and fourteen in the cab of the truck. The defendant had previously been deported from the United States.

Jose Guadalupe Chairez-Jauragui was indicted in February for smuggling 65 illegal aliens. A canine, conducting a routine sniff around his trailer, made the alert. Border Patrol agents had to remove pallets stacked in the back of the trailer and found the smothering aliens. Also in February Alonso Ruiz Avila was indicted in Arizona for transporting 50 aliens in a Freightliner tractor-trailer. The aliens were stowed behind crates of citrus.

Maria Christina Baez and Laura Gastelum were arrested for smuggling five children. The women were paid $50 for each child and were to turn the children over to a stranger. They did not even know who the children were.

In March, Breton Rodriguez, an illegal alien, attacked a Border Patrol agent, and grabbed the agent's Beretta from his holster. The gun discharged, striking the agent in the groin.

Push Here, Pop There

El Paso TX, and San Diego CA, were the two busiest gateways in illegal immigration crossings. The crackdown began. Operation Hold-the-Line was initiated in El Paso in 1992, Operation Gatekeeper in San Diego in 1994, and Operation Rio Grande was established in 1997 in the McAllen sector in South Texas. In that program, agents at the border were tripled.

Operation Hold-the-Line strategy included installing fences, and the use of sophisticated technology, including monitoring devices. The San Diego border had become violent, and Border Agents were struggling to control the "chaos" and anarchy" in the nightly riots. Mexicans across the border threw rocks at them and fired shots, then dash across en masse in "banzai runs."

"The Border Patrol has absolutely no jurisdiction over the Mexican side of the border. The Mexicans can stand there and taunt the Patrol, and there's nothing we can do, until they cross into the United States," Carter confirmed.

Operation Gatekeeper more than doubled Border Patrol Agents and vehicles at the fourteen-mile San Diego border, installed lighting, infrared scopes, underground sensors and Computer IDENT system to track illegal immigrants.

"Due to efforts in the nineties, entries into the United States decreased, The flow of illegal aliens at those fortified borders where additional agents were placed, such as San Diego CA and El Paso TX, apprehensions decreased significantly.

"During that time the Clinton Administration, and Attorney General Janet Reno, were very supportive of the Border Patrol. They went to Congress with the numbers, and asked to increase our resources. They had no choice but to approve. In 1972, there were 2,250 agents. When I left two years ago there were over 10,000 agents," Carter told us.

"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out they will go east or west of El Paso, and through the rougher routes and rugged terrain, knowing they were taking a greater risk.

"Lots of things have to be considered to create an effective barrier. There are the natural barriers. You have the Rio Grande. In Del Rio, TX, you open up the dam and they can't get across. Rugged mountain terrain makes it impossible to cross. Big Ben country is very rugged country. Marfa, Alpine, Presidio, the Rio Grande, and the high canyons are desolate, hot and miserable. Natural barriers there slow down illegal immigrants," Carter said.

"Most Americans are opposed to any kind of fence. Remember, we knocked down the Berlin wall. The original barriers in San Diego consisted of landing mats (pierced-steel planking), metal that was welded together and buried a couple of feet in the ground, leaning towards Mexico. It was pretty successful.

"Then the Mexicans started to butt holes in it. You can drive down and see the three layers of fencing that were put up in San Diego for border control.

"When the fence was built in San Diego, the border patrol had to develop a strategy. Push the balloon here, it pops up there. From San Diego to Tucson, all the way down the bor- der, a strategy had to be developed in such a way that the flow could be controlled." Carter continued.

Migrants were diverted into dangerous territories, many getting lost.

The Border Patrol was forced to shift its efforts from patrolling to rescuing victims," Patty Mancha, Border Patrol spokesperson told visalaw.com. "They are spending as much time searching for victims as they are doing their regular job."

For two days in May 2001, migrants were lost during Arizona's hellish heat season. Helicopters and four-wheel-drive vehicles, searching for survivors transported eleven injured to local hospitals. Two others were found after an all-night search, but footprints showed that three others were missing.

"We intend to work this until we've made sure there is no one left out there," Border Patrol spokesman Maurice More said. Coyotes who smuggled victims through the rugged terrain of the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge promised to return with water, and told the migrants to walk for "a couple of hours" to a highway. The highway was fifty miles away. Five were able to walk far enough to find agents in the scorching 115-degree heat, reports the Washington Post.

The Border Patrol got lots of grief for their role in the crackdown.

"What's causing it (the deaths of illegal immigrants) is the deadly strategy of the Border Patrol that has forced people into the most hazardous area of the desert," said the Rev. John Fife, Tucson pastor who helped build a watering station for immigrants in Arizona, the Post continues.

U.S. Rep. Tancredo (R-CO), supportive of the crackdowns, reacted after an agent was shot at by Mexicans in a humvee, five miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border in 2001. "I cannot in good conscience stand by and watch another incursion along our border take place.

"Unless we open our eyes and recognize that what's happening along the U.S./ Mexico border is real, one of our guys is going to get killed. "As far as I am concerned, that (incursion) should be an act of war," reports the Sierra Times.

Dozens of Border Patrol Agents have died since the organization of the Agency in 1924. Twenty-one have been killed since 1992.

Dumping Ground

U.S. Border Control Chairman Edward Nelson, outraged by Mexican consuls-general and Foreign Ministry officials' criticism of Operation Rio Grande, responded angrily, "America has become a favorite dumping ground for Mexicans their own government cannot, or chooses not to, care for. These diplomats are total hypocrites. Illegal migration is not 'a natural phenomenon' as the Mexican government would have us believe. It is, instead, a serious crime and a clear violation of American sovereignty."

The Mexican government does nothing to stop illegal migration because it is in their economic interests to have millions of their citizens go to the United States, especially those with no job skills and no money, or those with serious long-term health care problems," reports Usbc.org.

"Mexico," Nelson said, "even refuses to take back Mexican criminals that have been caught and convicted in our country (see future parts of this series). These diplomats are well aware of the fact that their citizens are being exploited, robbed and even murdered by the coyotes. They are aware that many are carrying drugs into America that will wind up in the veins of American children.

"Our border patrol, which has suffered more than 200 cross border attacks recently, should worry less about being 'sensitive' and more about being bushwhacked by the drug cartels killers who now control our southern border and most immigrant traffic.

"We've been called racists, imperialists, and most recently, murderers," the Usbc.org report continues. Mexican Response

In 2001, the Mexican Government announced its plan to distribute 200,000 survival kits as part of a broader program to instruct illegals in what to expect "tips on maintaining self-esteem, and on Asian meditation techniques, to combat depression, stress and anxiety in a country they have entered illegally and without speaking the language," says the Orange County Register.

The survival kits include first aid kits, rehydration tablets, dried foods, and snake bite antidotes. U.S. officials criticized the plan as further risking the lives of the Mexicans and the Border patrol. "It gives the perception to our U.S. public that the Mexican government is encouraging people to break U.S. laws by entering the country illegally," said Hipolito Scosta, INS district director, to CNN. America's Palestinians

Glenn Spencer, host of the popular talk show American Patrol, and immigration expert, produced a video "Conquest of Aztlan" in which he warns that a radical group, self-named "America's Palestinians" declare the goal of reclaiming the American Southwest, including California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, and parts of Colorado and Texas. The area is named "Aztlan" by Hispanic activists, or the mythical place of origin of the Aztec people, says Shop Net Daily.

H. Millard, in the Sierra Times, cites a Zogby poll, which found that 58 percent of Mexicans in the Southwest believed that the U.S. rightfully belongs to Mexico, and that 57 percent of Mexicans believe they have the right to enter the U.S. without permissions. He quotes Mario Obled, founder of the Mexican American Legal and Defense Fund (MALDEF), "California is going to be a Hispanic state, and anyone who doesn't like it should leave. They should go back to Europe."

MALDEF, according to Frosty Wooldridge, teacher, author and overpopulation specialist, reporting in the Washington Dispatch, is one of the most anti-American advocacy groups in the United States and is bent on returning Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California to Mexico as part of their 'Aztlan Reconquista.'

Three hundred more Border Patrol agents were deployed by June 1.

In spite of all these efforts, and after a four-year decline, illegal immigration from Mexico has spiked this year as several thousand migrants a day rush the border. U.S. Border Patrol told AP that detentions rose 25 percent, to 535,000, in the six months prior to March 31 compared to the year previous. Seventy-five percent are Mexican.

"And there's no way to determine 'got-aways,'" Carter told us. "I have no idea where anybody's getting those numbers, except in unsophisticated ways-border patrol agents in the desert, working a trail of aliens, don't report 'got-aways'. Then you have those areas and trails that are not worked and no-one to detect the immigrants."

No telling how many 'got-aways' are running loose in the United States, uncounted.

Then there are the many bodies that are never found.

Dr. Martin Brass is an International Lawyer and longtime contributor to SOF.

[Have an opinion on this article? Check in at the Soldier of Fortune Discussion Forum.]

© 2004 Soldier of Fortune Magazine. All rights reserved. All opinions expressed in this article are the author's, and do not necessarily reflect those of Military.com.


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