As he careered along the rock-strewn gulley towards his silver mine deep in the Sonoran desert of southern Arizona, Roger McCaslin first checked his bowie knife, then his pistol, and finally his Kalashnikov. From the road, he had already noticed that something was wrong.
"The gate's broken and the door on the trailer's open. They've been here, I know it," he said ominously. "I just hope they've moved on - for their sake."
Under the harsh sun, Mr McCaslin's black cowboy hat cast a shadow over his droopy moustache and a face so deeply creased that it resembled cracked saddle leather.
Welcome to the Wild West 2005, where modern-day cowboys still guard their land from interlopers - but using AK47s and four-wheel drives instead of Winchester rifles and horses.
Heavily armed Mexican gangs use the network of trails across McCaslin's land to smuggle humans and vast quantities of drugs into the United States. There is no one to stop them, except one man. And in today's society, even he runs a steep risk of prosecution for protecting his own property from foreign invasion. Knowing this, the Mexican gangs have gotten extremely aggressive, violence has erupted, and life on the border has become fraught with peril.
Notoriously porous, the border has reached new levels of lawlessness this year as smugglers, known as "coyotes", have become increasingly brazen, willing to fire on anyone - from border patrols to the likes of Mr McCaslin - who gets in their way.
He recounted several gunfights with the "coyotes", including one occasion when he and his business partner came under fire at dusk as they barbecued steaks. "They started the war when they started shooting at us."
From his vantage point at the mine, he has watched long lines of illegal immigrants traipsing north through the desert, leaving their detritus as they passed. Discarded everywhere, in disused mines and beneath bushes, are the cheap clothes and bags that they abandon to travel faster and less conspicuously. Empty water bottles litter the landscape.
Once Mr McCaslin found a 300lb stash of marijuana hidden in a hollow. "I called up the border patrol who came and took it away. Then that night I sat up here and watched the car lights of the coyotes as they searched and searched for the stuff. Boy, they must have been mad," he said with a satisfied grin.
I posted a story months ago about families living on the border, and the stories they recount so matter-of-factly, are horrifying to outsiders. Theirs is a life dominated by self-defense lessons, family practice drills to huddle in the master bedroom, obligatory two-way radios for kids who walk to school, and a handgun on the hip for mom.
"The diversity of those who are coming across has grown and their desperation has definitely heightened," she [Mrs. Garner] says. "Years ago, they would politely ask you for water outside. Now you come home and someone is in your house, eating your food, trashing your bedroom, stealing your stuff, and leaving garbage everywhere."
While public outrage is growing, our government has been slow and ineffectual with dealing with the lawless border. In a post-9/11 world, prudence would've dictated that the border be tightened up and patrolled regularly - especially since al Qaeda has made it public knowledge that they are working with Mexican gangs. In October, three known al Qaeda suspects were caught crossing the border into Texas. And the Border Patrol estimates that 1 in every 10 border jumpers is Arab.
...it is more dangerous and pernicious...with a growing number of people of different nationalities coming across the border, including from the Middle East, India, and Afghanistan.
The evidence of that comes in Islamic prayer rugs found in the desert dust, Arabic literature left by still-warm campfires, and Afghani head garb caught on cactus quills.
Public support for a 2,000 mile steel wire fence along our southern border is rapidly gaining popularity among Americans. Considering the incredible success of San Diego's 14 mile fence, which has reduced illegal border jumping to 1/6th of its previous levels, the argument in favor of a fence is strong. However, the Bush administration has inexplicably stated that a fence would be a "waste of money". That argument is entirely unsupported, since illegal aliens cost our economy hundreds of billions per year, whereas the fence construction would cost $8 billion - and pay for itself within the first year of its construction!
The fact that life on our own borders is a surreal throwback to the lawless days of the Wild West is something we cannot ignore just because it's happening to someone else. American citizens should not have to live in a no-man's land of unchallenged drug smuggling and human trafficking. By leaving our borders unprotected, our federal government has abdicated its control of our national security, and our President has betrayed his sworn oath to protect and defend our people and our land.
This has been a production of the Guard the Borders Blogburst. It was started by Euphoric Reality, and serves to keep immigration issues in the forefront of our minds as we're going about our daily lives and continuing to fight the war on terror. If you are concerned with the trend of illegal immigration facing our country, join our blogburst! Just send an email with your blog name and url to kit.jarrell at gmail dot com.
Blogs already on board: