Column: Border dangers are increasing

Published 8:51 am Friday, October 15, 2010

Former Mower County Sheriff Wayne Goodnature lives now in Arizona where he is involved with a citizen group that seeks to defend the U.S. border. This is one of a series of dispatches from the border.

By Wayne P. Goodnature

Whether it is drug smuggling, human smuggling or illegal immigrants, the border crossings will mostly occur after dark. Our group’s next desert excursion will be at night, and we have all started training.

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The criminal activity across the border has turned into a very dangerous game. Around dusk the drug and human smugglers begin to push across the border, and the game begins. The Border Patrol tries its best to stop all this activity but there is just too much of it, coming from too many places, and the majority of smugglers and immigrants make it through.

The smugglers have lots of help. Cartels have spotters stationed in the hills and mountains along southern Arizona’s smuggling corridors to tell the smugglers where Border Patrol and civilian groups are waiting.

At times, the desert turns into a super highway of smugglers, illegal immigrants, Border Patrol agents and us. My guess is, it’s just a matter of time until a full-scale firefight breaks out among the various factions, then this cat and mouse game will end.

Previous Goodnature columns

Groups aim to take back U.S. border region

Border crisis highlights failures of U.S. leadership

Border problems putting the U.S. at risk

The first night I spent training in the desert was like a horror movie; everywhere I looked I imagined a cartel member with a machine gun. This training was in what we call a hot area, with actual activity. We were practicing with night vision equipment, trying to accurately judge distance and location. We also practiced spotting the spotters — and keeping them from spotting us.

What I saw that night was like something out of a bad movie: Groups of men carrying oversized backpacks of drugs, mules trudging and winding their way through desert gullies, back and forth like a make-believe snake train. Some of groups had at least two guards armed with what appeared to be automatic rifles. Another group we observed looked like adolescents or young teenagers; the distance was considerable, so I could not tell for sure.

Trust me; this environment is no place for most adults much less for kids.

Seeing the children moving through the desert reminded me of a book I read a couple of weeks ago, “The Death of Josseline,” by Margaret Regan. Josseline, 14, from Guatemala, was trying to cross the desert with her 10-year-old brother, a number of adults and a drug cartel coyote who Josseline’s mother had hired. The children were trying to reach their mother who was living in Los Angeles, also an illegal immigrant. Josseline fell ill shortly after crossing the border and began to vomit, and simple could not go on. The coyote left her in the desert, and no one in the group stayed with her. What she must have gone through as she died is impossible to imagine, but her death is both unforgettable and unforgiveable. A member of a Mexican drug cartel killed her through negligence, but our government is not without blame, and neither are we.