Thursday, March 15, 2012

A very problematical border

Leaking like a sieve, and not in a good way

Cynthia Kendoll, as president of Oregonians For Immigration Reform, considered herself fairly knowledgeable about immigration issues. And then she went on a six-day tour of the Arizona-Mexico border.

“I learned more in one day than I had in 10 years,” Kendoll said.

The tour was organized by the Center for Immigration Studies, an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research organization in Washington, D.C., that is devoted to research and policy analysis of the impacts of immigration on the United States.

Kendoll and five other concerned citizens, including a lawyer, a fire chief and the owner of a fence company, traveled with three members from the center for an up-close look at the border region from Yuma to Tucson.

They saw the border from several different vantage points, with Border Patrol agents, law enforcement officials and other protective agency representatives, the folks on the front lines, guiding them on intimate tours.

“They took us to points that are not your average tourist stops,” Kendoll said. “We went into many places that were off limits to the public.”

This was hardly a vacation for Kendoll, whose husband and two grown sons were concerned for her safety. She was the only woman among the group.

Their concerns were eased by the fact that the group was accompanied by law enforcement officers and heavily armed guards. The guards were riding in vehicles in front and behind the two SUVs the group traveled in.

Whenever Kendoll and her travel mates emerged from the SUVs, they were instructed to not be more than touching distance away from another member of the group, and the armed guards scattered into the brush to patrol the perimeter.

Even so, there were a few tense moments, like the day a Black Hawk helicopter swooped in nearby and did a maneuver referred to as “dusting up.” The helicopter hovered low to the ground, stirring up a tornado of dust and debris long enough so the suspects could be rounded up by Border Patrol agents.

In addition to Border Patrol, officials from the Tohono O’odham Nation reservations, the Arizona DEQ Office of Border Environmental Protection, the U.S. National Parks Service, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University joined the group at different points along the more than 300-mile journey.

“What was helpful for us was hearing from all of those people what’s working and what’s not working, what’s politics and what’s propaganda,” Kendoll said.

Kendoll went into the trip with an open mind to learn about the work being done on the Arizona-Mexico border. “If I am going to be in a leadership position, I want to be able to speak from experience,” she said.

She noted that the mantra for Oregonians For Immigration Reform, a nonprofit, public service organization with more than 3,000 members statewide, is to “be informative, not inflammatory.”

“We’re not a hate group,” Kendoll said. “We want what’s best for the people of the United States. We want people to know the issues.”

Meeting and getting to know some of the agents who work along the border personalized the issues for Kendoll even more. She learned, for example, that Jon Young, state chief for the Arizona Bureau of Land Management, has a $10,000 bounty on his head.

“These agents are laying their lives on the line every day,” Kendoll said. “I fear for them.”

The group spent some time at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, which has been called the most dangerous national park in the U.S. That’s where park ranger Kris Eggle was shot and killed in the line of duty in 2002 while pursuing members of a drug cartel who fled into the United States after committing a string of murders in Mexico.

A memorial for Eggle was erected at the park, and the visitor center was named in his honor.

A large chunk of the park is closed to the public because of dangers. Kendoll was able to visit some of the restricted areas and even walk some of the trails people have used to illegally cross the border.

Some of the state’s most magnificent desert landscape is in the park and at the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, and it’s literally being trampled by the traffic of illegal immigrants and drug cartels, not to mention the garbage left behind.

“And it’s gross garbage,” Kendoll said. “Condoms, baby diapers, piles of poo, tampons, drug paraphernalia, food containers …”

Black plastic bags, used as rain gear and to avoid infrared detection, were discarded everywhere. So were makeshift “booties,” which are made out of old blankets and twine and used to mask shoe prints.

Kendoll spent some time with the DEQ Border Environmental Protection group faced with cleaning up the mess. She photographed one man holding up a discarded drug sack.

She also came home with photos of her standing next to the various types of fences along the border. Some are 15 feet tall, posted 5 feet deep in the ground, with metal poles filled with concrete. Others are shorter and less imposing. Some were erected as vehicle barriers and look like giant jacks.

At one area where Kendoll and the group traveled, double fencing and stadium-type lighting was installed to control what was once a free-for-all of illegal border crossings.

Officials told them tunnels have since been dug under the border at that location.

“We all left just feeling completely overwhelmed with the issues on the border and how complicated they are,” Kendoll said. “People say, ‘Why don’t we throw up a fence?’ It’s not that simple. We have a Third World nation on our border, and the magnet of what we have to offer is huge.

“As I got more involved in the issue, the fence isn’t the be-all and the end-all. The magnet is the problem.”

If people looking for a better life make it across the border, they are likely to find it — a job, free health care and other assistance. And that’s what is so frustrating to those who labor along the border day in and day out.

“These people are working so hard to keep them out, but if they get in there are no consequences,” Kendoll said. “The only way to stop it is to not only have a secure border, but to have and enforce mandatory E-verify law, requiring all businesses to hire legal workers.”


Attack on EU immigration policies gives Sarkozy a much-needed election boost

Nicolas Sarkozy has bounced back in the French presidential election polls after launching an attack on European Union immigration policies.

With the first of two rounds of voting due to take place on April 22, it is a morale boost for the current president who has been widely predicted to lose.

In the poll, 28.5 per cent of voters said they would back him in the first round, with 27 per cent opting for his main rival, Socialist Francois Hollande.

However, there was still bad news for Mr Sarkozy as the poll revealed that at the second round of voting on May 6, which is expected to be a head-to-head battle between Mr Sarkozy and Mr Hollande, the latter would win with 54.5 per cent.

As in the 2007 presidential election, Mr Sarkozy is trying to woo Right-wing supporters by hammering away on immigration, security and trade protection.

During recent campaign speeches he has also demanded greater protection of Europe’s internal borders and threatened to pull out of the Schengen agreement, which allows passport-free movement between most European Union nations, in a bid to almost halve the number of immigrants arriving in France.

However, Mr Sarkozy’s threats yesterday pushed Germany to issue a public rebuke, in a sign of growing concern in Berlin with the tone of his re-election campaign.

But such tough words appeal to traditional followers of France’s Right-wing National Front (FN) party, led by Marine Le Pen, many of whom are believed to have switched to Mr Sarkozy’s conservative UMP party.

Mr Sarkozy’s poll boost came as Miss Le Pen, who is ranked third in the polls, said she had secured the 500 signatures that are needed from elected local mayors to enter the presidential race.


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