Arizonans to House committee: Border strategy creates ‘no man’s lands’

 She said illegal immigrants have “cut fences, drained water tanks, killed animals, robbed our home, slept in our barn, stole a vehicle, trampled the grass for our cattle, and left literally tons of trash.”

Just another ho hum example of catastrophic government failure. — jtl, 419

William V Theobald, The Republic |

WASHINGTON — Rep. Martha McSally used the border subcommittee she now chairs as well as witnesses from rural Arizona on Tuesday to call attention to a Border Patrol strategy that they say devastates their land and puts lives at risk.

The Border Patrol strategy, called “defense-in-depth,” focuses resources on urban areas along the border but moves checkpoints in rural areas to miles inside the border. That, the Tucson Republican said, has pushed illegal crossings to rural areas like the southern border of her congressional district.

“On a routine basis, our fellow citizens are exposed to illicit activity that crosses the border, trespasses on their land, destroys their property and puts their lives at risk,” McSally said at a hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee’s Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee.

She said the policy hurts small businesses and tourism and needs to be re-examined.

Mark Morgan, the new chief of the Border Patrol, was asked about the policy and other issues related to the patrol. But with just two months on the job, he deflected many questions, saying they were issues he was still studying.

Owner: Strategy hurts businesses

Gary Brasher, who is part owner of several businesses along the border in Santa Cruz County, said moving checkpoints back from the border in rural areas creates “no man’s lands” between the checkpoint and the border.

Brasher said a gang member shot by a rival gang showed up at his front door seeking medical treatment and he found the body of someone shot when a drug deal went bad.

He said a study found that after the checkpoint was built north of the border on Interstate 19, nearby property values declined. It also hurts businesses south of the checkpoint because some people are afraid to pass through the checkpoint.

Rancher: Policy makes residents ‘first line of defense’

Peggy Davis’ family ranch is 12 miles southeast of Tombstone and 25 miles north of the Mexican border.

She said illegal immigrants have “cut fences, drained water tanks, killed animals, robbed our home, slept in our barn, stole a vehicle, trampled the grass for our cattle, and left literally tons of trash.”

Davis said she told the head of the Border Patrol who came up with the defense-in-depth strategy it was “the dumbest idea I had ever heard.”

McSally bill to strengthen homeland security is 7th to get House OK

“This failed strategy has forced illegal aliens into the rural areas of Arizona where ranchers and other rural residents have become the first line of defense because the majority of the Border Patrol agents are north of where we live,” she said.

Davis said her husband found the body of a drug runner on their ranch in July 2012. And she said her son was robbed by drug traffickers who even pried up the boards on the floor of his house and used his electric clippers to cut their hair.

They left their hair on the floor, the county sheriff told Davis, as a sign that they could come and go as they pleased.

Davis suggested the Border Patrol needs more forward-operating bases.

Brasher called for drones to spot illegal crossers, roving checkpoints and improved equipment to allow local, state, federal and local law enforcement to communicate better with each other.

UA center: Recommendations never implemented

Also testifying was Elyse Golob, executive director for the National Center for Border Security and Immigration at the University of Arizona.

The center received $500,000 from the Border Patrol in 2010 to conduct a study of checkpoint operations but Golob said its recommendations were never implemented.

One of those, included in Golob’s testimony Tuesday, was to create a “red team” of actors who would test the effectiveness of checkpoints by trying to pass through with drugs and other illegal items.

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