On the Border

Somewhere south of Campo, CA  there is a phalanx of illegal immigrants planning a journey tonight that could cost them their lives.

The story of the treacherous crossing of the Sonoran Desert and the Rio Grande into our border states is well known.  It has been depicted movingly in films such as El Norte and Sin Nombre and sung about with deep sentiment by artists such as U2 and Bruce Springsteen.

Less well known are the hardships that those seeking to protect our borders from illegal immigration must endure as they conduct a vigilant reconnaisance of the border.

The tragic battle between the Mexican illegals and their enablers( known as coyotes)  with the volunteer guardsmen, known as Minutemen, is one of the least understood sagas of our time.

The illegals, fleeing poverty, violence, the incessant killings in the drug wars and looking for a better life  north of the border are as much victims as they are villains.  They sometimes hand over their life savings to unscrupulous smugglers who bring them across the border into the arid southern states of  California, Arizona, New Mexico or Texas only to often be abandoned by them, left to die of thirst, raped or robbed of what few belongings they still possess.

The Minutemen, frustrated by powerlessness of the U.S. Border patrol to adequately monitor the border are a voluntary citizen patrol who monitor the southern crossings for illegals who trample their crops, kill their animals and threaten violence if they are confronted.   Although  there have been cases of Minutemen having engaged the Coyotes in armed combat, most merely report crossing to the  U.S. Customs and Border Patrol who take over from there.

You would think the Minutmen would be accorded hero status for their selfless efforts to protect the border from the relentless wave of illegal immigrants.  But they have been vilified as vigilantes and marksmen, who shoot first and ask questions later.  They are seen as racists who fail to understand that these hardworking immigrants are willing  to perform the dirty jobs that Americans no longer want to do.  The illegals are cast by liberals as the same breed of individuals who flooded into America in the 1880s through 1920s , immeasurably enriching our nation with their talents and skills.

The equation of  the illegal immigrants of today with the great immigrations of the late 19th Century is, however, spurious.  Ilegal immigrants as a whole do not add to national productivity as previous generations did  but in fact  make a far greater contribution, by comparison, to welfare  rolls, gang violence and inner city poverty as a percentage of the population than any of the previous of immigration waves to this country.  It is also fatuous to state that immigrants have  some kind of “right” to cross over the United States border in order to find work and a livlihood.  Such an attitude bespeaks a rejection of  U.S. sovereignty and the sanctioning of one world government.

The advocates of illegal immigrants also fail to appreciate the way the drug trade uses the open southern border as access to the rich urban markets of this country.  Many of the Coyotes double as drug runners. Smuggled in hollowed concrete posts, frozen broccoli packs, sacks of coffee and crates brimming with exotic woods and aromatic spices, enough drugs reach the streets of America to keep an estimated 12 million addicted.

If there is any true haplessness  in all of this, it is the Federal Government’s efforts to establish proper border controls and its failure to adequately safegauard and monitor the border.  A border fence has been under construction since 2005 with high tech components and titled The Secure Border Network Initiative.  This system has two main components: SBI,  the threat level associated with an illegal entry into the United States between the ports of entry, and SBI tactical infrastructure (TI), fencing, roads, and lighting intended to enhance U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents’ ability to respond to the area of the illegal entry and bring the situation to a law enforcement resolution (i.e., arrest). The current focus of the SBI program is on the southwest border areas between ports of entry that U.S. Customs and Border Patrol  has designated as having the highest need for enhanced border security because of serious vulnerabilities.

But as the Wall Street Journal reported this week, the $600 billion system isn’t operational yet and has been bedeviled by system failures.  These include blurry images, radar that couldn’t differentiate between people and animals and field agents who couldn’t log onto their laptops. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection says the prototype has been fixed, but Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, nevertheless  froze most funding to the project on Tuesday last week, pending a review.

In the meantime, citizens like  Jim Wood, identified in the photos below, have taken it upon themselves to address the border’s lapses and vulnerabilities.  Through his Declaration Alliance, he has raised the funds to build his own surveillance system near Campo in an attempt to give ordinary citizens  the ability to monitor the border and report suspicious movements to the Border Patrol.

Although his system is also prone to crashing, his lone efforts – and those of the Minutemen –  are one more proof that citizens cannot always rely on lumbering government bureaucracies to address urgent local, state or national problems.

The idea that citizens must sometimes take matters into their own hands where a reliance on government has failed them – whether it be in regard to drug trafficking, the terrorist menace or the diminution of national sovereignty – has taken hold of the imaginations of many citizens around the world.

It is a fine line, of course, between law and order and pure vigilantism. But for many, it is the only viable means of protecting homes and their local environment when government action is completely ineffective.

The minutemen’s effort is the brainchild of Web developer Jim “Woody” Wood. He got the idea when he and other minutemen flocked to the Campo border in 2005 to rally against immigration reform. But he got bored as few immigrants were spotted. He decided a surveillance system would be best. (Brian L. Frank for The Wall Street Journal)

Mr. Wood, who lives two hours north of the border in Mission Viejo, Calif., raised money to start the project through his Web site, borderfenceproject.com. People have to take a multiple-choice test on the site in order to gain access to the camera images. (Brian L. Frank for The Wall Street Journal)

He says if he had permission, he would detain illegal aliens. For now, though, he’s focused on expanding his surveillance system at the pace his two herniated discs and Parkinson’s disease will allow. “A lot of this heavy labor is not something that I’m really capable of,” he said. (Brian L. Frank for The Wall Street Journal)

On Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano diverted some of the project’s funding towards more practical tools, such as mobile radios and laptops. With the exception of a small section in Arizona currently being tested, spending on the ambitious border-long system is on hold until a review she ordered in January is completed. (Brian L. Frank for The Wall Street Journal)

In Campo, Calif., a fence stretches along a desolate area of the U.S.-Mexico border. The federal government wants to install radar, sensors and cameras, but the plan is beset by delays. Campo agents were supposed to be hooked up to the virtual fence in early 2009. (Brian L. Frank for The Wall Street Journal)


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