US Border Patrol and The Border Battle Is Real
Note: This article only applies to states that border Mexico unless you are traveling to a southern border state for hunting, fishing or visiting any Parks or Monuments.
March 14, 2017 – Ajo, Arizona. We arrived as guests of the U.S. Border Patrol just outside Ajo, Arizona and were greeted by our contact and Border Patrol Agent Paco. It was already 80 some degrees at 9:30 in the morning and the three of us from Shake, Rattle & Troll were given a tour of their facility and introduced to two other agents which would accompany us on our day long tour. From the onset, we were advised that there was always the possibility of two things, that we could encounter immigrants, illegal or otherwise and if required as support for an arrest, we would be support for the arresting crew (back up).
The focus of our invitation to ride along with the Border Patrol was to see firsthand the reality of the “life of a Border Agent” and to ascertain the issues they face both with immigrants but more so the relationship between agents and hunters in these southern sectors. By the end of the day, we developed a great relationship with Agent Paco and the agents that rode along with us.
Don McDowell, Doug Stricker and Cat Thor represented not just the hunters and outdoorsmen of Arizona, but the general public in Arizona as well along with the many visitors of Organ Pipe Cactus National Park and Cabeza Prieta Wildlife Refuge, both visited by millions of Americans each year and although we think we know the reality of this area and presume the border is a stronghold, it is not as you would think. For up close and personal, to touch the fence itself and witness the life of a Border Patrol agent is definitely a reality check if visiting from outside Arizona. Between the Border Patrol and the National Park Service agents, visitation has increased over the years and generally, they rarely have encounters with immigrants.
Where can the Border Patrol Operate
To get the border, roads were cut in along the border fence and in cooperation with federal agencies, roads were cut through National Monuments and National Parks. The Patrol vehicles stay on these roads as much as possible and in the event they are required to pursue immigrants off these roads, they use the smallest footprint possible to avoid any destruction of plants and wildlife. If required, ATV’s are used and if the pursuit requires even a smaller footprint, horses are employed. The Border Patrol makes every effort to not impact the environment but they are authorized to pursue their objective. This is not easy in the southern deserts as cover can be thick and dangerous.
How Immigrants Are Spotted And Captured
High definition cameras are monitored in some sectors 24 hours a day and can reach out more than 12 miles and employ infrared during the night. This is not uncommon and locations are unknown to all but the “need to know”. Predator drones provide aerial surveillance out of Sierra Vista as well as other aerial assets out of Davis Monthan AFB in Tucson. Drones fly routinely equipped with high speed and high definition cameras monitored by Tucson, ported to Border Patrol units. All unknown bodies are reported through channels ending up at the Ajo Station where agents and teams are deployed. We were taken to observe this operation but were not allowed to photograph critical equipment.
Although stealth is a key element in apprehending immigrants, technology plays a huge role in catching not just illegal immigrants, but the Drug Mules as well. These runners pay a high price if they fail anywhere along the line. Upon delivering their back pack (marijuana) weighing 40lbs or more to locations (unspecified) they can be paid from $1,800 to $2,100 for their work.
The return trip to Mexico ensues but the threat of capture is never over by the Border Patrol. What looms over the heads of these mules are the “Rip Crews” along the way on the U.S. side that rob the mules of their stash before they unload it at the drop point, and on the return, robbed of their money. In some cases, their families are threatened by the drug cartel should they fail along this arduous journey so the mules go to great lengths to avoid being seen or found.
Beware Of Bandits and Rip Crews On Or Near The Border
If you are visiting a border region, know that“Rip Crews” are renegades on the US side that look to steal the loads of Drug Mules. They are well armed and have been known to fire at will to get what they want including any cash these folks have as well as molesting any females in the group. Rip Crews know the paths the mules take from the Nogales area to Yuma to the west. I10 and I8 are typically the border line for these groups and the Border Patrol is perpetually finding and arresting these individuals but they are difficult to track down. They hit fast and are out of the area soon after. The 1,969-mile-long border between Mexico and the United States includes all kinds of terrain – desert, chaparral, mountain, scrub and forest and some of it is friendlier to smugglers, coyotes and never-do-wells than other parts. One of the toughest parts is between the states of Sonora and Arizona a little to the west of Nogales.
These bandit groups can start out as “Scouts” (guides for Drug Mules) for the drug cartel breaking off into Rip Crews or border bandits, or “bajadores”. When this occurs, the Mexican drug cartels set out assassins (sacaraos) to take out the Border Bandits and Rip Crews.
The rough terrain of the desert southwest is perfect cover for Mules and Bandits and backpackers and hikers. Take warning of their presence or possible encounters.
The Arizona border is 366 miles long and in 2016, 68 bodies were found by border agents and estimated to perish due to the terrain, exhaustion or shot. The trip is difficult across the Arizona border and although “do gooders” feel that leaving water out there is a good thing, Agent Paco emphasizes that water goes fast in this area and when you’re on foot for 80 some miles, even a gallon of water won’t last long when temperatures rise about 90 degrees. Deaths still occur.
Over the years, the landscape took a toll both in the Organ Pipe Cactus National Park and Cabeza Prieta Wildlife Refuge due to the immigration issues and drug smuggling. Cooperation between the Ajo Border Patrol and the Management of the Organ Pipe National Park has significantly reduced this problem because of the increased cooperation between these two agencies and enforcement of the laws as well as keeping the public in this area informed. The landscape and environment is worth the trip and today, the encounters by the public of illegal’s have been reduced.
What Should You Know When Hunting Along the Border
This portion only applies to states that border Mexico.
The SRT intention in riding with the US Border Patrol was to gain knowledge on not only how they work but to get the inside on how we as sportsmen should interact with sportsmen and also to get an idea of how the landscape is handling the constant breach of our border in terms of trash, deaths and destruction of property either federal, public or personal. Our presence is to shed light on what is really happening about controversy over how the government is handling this situation as well as the interaction of state fish and wildlife agencies and federal agencies. As of this writing, it would appear there is some handshaking going on between federal agencies but our goal is to include state and local agencies and officials to do the same. First and foremost is to get the word out to sportsmen entering the southern sections, so:
What You Should Know When You Visit The Border
The southern border of the United States is currently under siege and in some cases, dangerous if you are going to visit the area. The U.S. Border Patrol and many of the National Park Agents are aware the citizens visit these areas because of the beauty and landscape. It is impressive but crawling with problems. Precautions are necessary whether you’re hunting, fishing or just visiting and making your presence known protects you if an emergency should arise. So:
Prior to arriving at your hunting destination:
Call the Tucson Sector at 520-748-3210 which is the Public Affairs Office and Provide:
What sector you’ll be hunting
Number of persons in your party
Vehicle colors and plate numbers
Date range of your hunt
If you have an emergency
First and foremost, call 911 and describe your emergency. If you are calling from a cell phone, be sure your “location services” are on. The call will pinpoint your GPS location or if lost connection, the nearest cell tower will provide a starting point for the Border Patrol.
If you encounter immigrants or illegal’s or you suspect you have:
DO NOT APPROACH OR ATTEMPT TO APPREHEND ILLEGAL’S
Call 911 for the above reasons. Provide as much information as you can
Number of people encountered
Descriptions including color of clothing
Articles carried if possible
Pictures if practical