Friday, June 24, 2011
A Firsthand Account of Arizona’s Porous Border
For the residents of Arizona’s Vekol Valley—80 miles north of the border with Mexico—Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano’s claim that security at the border “is better now than it ever has been” must seem like a joke.
The area is a veritable highway for illegal immigrants traveling to the United States, and it’s marked by evidence of their passage. If the bullet-ridden signs warning, “Danger: ‘Active drug and human smuggling area. Visitors may encounter armed criminals’” aren’t enough of a dead giveaway, the evidence strewn across the valley ought to be proof enough.
The images and destruction are startling (take a look for yourself). But what is even more troubling is that Vekol Valley isn’t immediately along the southwest border but 80 miles within U.S. territory (only 60 miles from Phoenix). As efforts to secure the border have squeezed smuggling routes, illegal immigrants and drug runners have increasingly sought to make the two-day trek across the southwest border and up through the Tohono O’odham reservation to the Vekol Valley.
All of this may seem shocking, but to the Arizona legislature this is nothing new. The expansive human and drug smuggling problem faced by the state is one of the reasons they passed S.B. 1495 earlier this year, allowing the governor to mobilize the State Defense Force (SDF) “for any reason” she sees fit. This would give the state a low-cost force multiplier to help aid the Border Patrol in halting illegal crossing and smuggling throughout Arizona. Yet the move to stand up the SDF remains stalled at Governor Jan Brewer’s desk.