The turmoil along the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona has once again reared its ugly head and is front and center in the national spotlight.
The senseless, tragic murder of southern Arizona rancher Rob Krentz on the family’s cattle ranch in March is another chapter in the violent history of the 350-mile broken border the Grand Canyon state shares with its southern neighbor.
Krentz was shot and killed while checking livestock on his Cochise County cattle ranch. Some believe the murderer was a scout for a Mexican drug gang who crossed the border illegally, stumbled across Krentz, shot him, and then retreated to Mexico. Others say Krentz went to the illegal’s aid. The death of the prominent Arizona rancher made national headlines overnight.
Bas Aja of the Arizona Cattlemen’s Association calls Krentz a gentle, well-respected man in Arizona’s livestock industry. Krentz was not the first to die a violent death on the Mexico border. Unfortunately, he will not be the last.
Illegal immigrants seeking jobs in America will continue to perish in the harsh desert, often, discarded by coyotes (smugglers). Drug smugglers will continue to murder for a profit. Border patrol officers have died trying to stop the flood of humans and drugs across the 2,000-mile long boundary the U.S. and Mexico share.
Border violence is nothing new. The epidemic proportions are new.
Krentz’s death spurred immigration reform groups to jump on the “seal the border” bandwagon. Arizona U.S. Senators Jon Kyl and John McCain and others want National Guard troops stationed on the borderline to choke off wide open access.
The border will never be 100 percent sealed.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will likely never complete its mission to build a joint physical and virtual fence spanning the 1,951-mile border from California to Texas.
When Janet Napolitano was governor of Arizona she claimed the federal government was responsible to police the border. Now DHS secretary, she is backpedaling on the fence completion, directing the department’s financial resources in other directions.
DHS could build a 1,000-foot high wall with armed guards perched shoulder-to-shoulder and the border would still be a sieve. Coyotes would still find ways to reach the other side with their cargoes.
Aja says the level of violence along the border has escalated over the last 15 years. In the past, coyotes moved 15 illegals up a trail to the drop-off location and then returned to Mexico for the next load.
Today heavily armed coyotes push human and drug cargo into Arizona for distribution elsewhere. Return trips to the border now include stops at isolated border homes where Aja says “bandits” kick in doors and steal possessions.
The volatility of this highly-charged, political hot potato has implications for Western agriculture: placing on hold the development of long-term solutions to meet agriculture’s future labor needs.
Increasingly violent border issues stifle political and public support to revamp arduous and complex federal temporary worker programs. Major reform is unlikely as long as border violence clouds the farm worker issue.
Rancher Krentz’s death is just as tragic as the illegal who dies of thirst trying to cross the wasteland east of Yuma in July. Guns and walls will not seal off the border.
What will end the violence? Immigration reform is a start. Continued support of Mexico’s president to destroy his country’s drug cartels is another. A willingness to truly understand what goes on there and work toward viable solutions is what is needed.