Sunday, July 18, 2010

Death in the Arizona Desert: The Untold Story

by Ben Small

We hear about the Arizona-Texas shootings, bombs and other mayhem along the Mexican border, but rarely do we consider another tragic aspect of our failure to secure our southern borders: death by exposure. Last year, from October, 2009 to the beginning of March, 2010, over eighty-five illegals died from desert exposure, an increase of over sixty percent from the year before.

And that was during winter.

One doesn't usually consider death by desert exposure during the winter months. People forget, the desert is dry -- little water available -- and night temperatures can reach well below freezing.

And what about summer deaths, the Sonoran Desert's most treacherous season? From July 1 - July 15 this year, over forty bodies dead from exposure were found in Tucson's Pima County, all recent deaths. Final figures won't be available for Cochise or other counties south of Tucson for awhile.

It takes time to find the stink, and there's a lot of ground to cover.

And this is just death of illegals dealt by Mother Nature alone. These figures don't count drug war victims shot by border patrol officers or by bandits waiting in the hills; it doesn't include those who die during home invasions or on the highways, like inside sweltering smugglers' trucks, vans or eighteen wheelers.

The Sonoran desert lies beneath a relentless sun. Temperatures well over a hundred. And water is sparse. You lose moisture breathing.

Environmentalists stopped the fence project, complaining wildlife wouldn't be free to meander. Evidently, the Feds rate keeping coyotes, rattlers and rabbits happy over saving human lives. The Department of Interior won't allow Border Patrol agents access to some federal forests.

At some parts of what passes for a border fence, a handicapped person could cross.  Crawl or climb, your choice. Or maybe somebody will lift you.

Yup. Death by exposure in the Arizona desert is headed for a record toll.

Imagine yourself in this circumstance: sweltering under a bush, your tongue swollen and black. You struggle for breath. You're withering; you feel yourself desiccating by the moment. There's no relief from the sun's burning grip. Even the winds blow like a blast furnace. You know that your body may never be found, that family may never learn your fate; or, if they left you behind, you know they will always be haunted by guilt. Or maybe a rattlesnake got you and you're wracked in pain, as its poison shuts down and eats your muscular system -- or in the case of the Green Movave -- paralyzes your neurological system, too. 

The death toll from having an insecure border rises each year. In all, we're talking thousands of lives.

And these statistics fail to include the number of illegals rescued from the desert by the border patrol or local ranchers. Those numbers are in the thousands, too, and they go up every year.

Rather than devising means to secure our borders -- the particularly lax Arizona border, especially -- the Obama Administration would prefer to talk Immigration reform and fight in court Arizona's efforts to enforce federal immigration law on its own border.

Does a state have the right to protect itself from those who would invade it?

Why are Congress and Obama doing this? Because they want the Hispanic vote. Simple as that. They'd rather swell the voter rolls with amnestied former illegals than close the border off.

Amnesty means votes, and votes are all that matter. So what if there's collateral damage? So what if some of the people whose votes they're enticing die in their desperate attempts to get here and fall under the Fed's protective umbrella? And so what if the Border Patrol must allocate time and money to the thousands of desert rescue efforts yearly? Consider the manpower requirements associated with our vast borders; the cost of the ambulances and free emergency care.

Talking about a broad Immigration policy that includes some form of amnesty when one cannot secure one's borders just encourages illegal aliens to take the crossing-risk and hazard a long journey through a scorching or frozen desert. The rewards are citizenship, the right to vote and free health care. Heck, cities like Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Fe and Albuquerque offer themselves up as "Sanctuary Cities."

If I were an illegal fleeing Mexico, I'd be tempted to give the Sonoran Desert a shot. Just pack a couple water bottles, eh?

And if Congress passes an Immigration Reform package and the border is still insecure...well, think about it. All we'll accomplish is to encourage a new wave of illegals. We've done this before.

An immigration reform package will do nothing to stop the money, human and drug smuggling operations of the Mexican drug lords. Mexico is under siege and its drug gangs are setting up shop in this country. Mexicans are fleeing Mexico, desperate to escape the daily gang battles, poverty, treachery and corruption.

Our insecure border is costing lives.

We talk about the horrors of water-boarding and Abu Ghraib and GitMo. We say those activities are inhumane, even if conducted against someone who's planning to kill us. Torture, we call these things. But what about leaders who are willing to tempt illegals to cross our deserts, knowing that a large number of them won't make it, that their bodies will rot and become bounty for birds, bugs and four-legged predators?

And why? Because they want the Hispanic vote, of course. Racism from another angle, maybe? Who knows? But is this "change we can believe in?"

It's ridiculous to talk about meaningful immigration reform or amnesty while our borders are woefully insecure. Until we have secure borders, we encourage people to risk their lives, and we give those terrorists who live to strike at the heart of America an avenue to smuggle in their dirty bombs, suitcase nukes and biological weapons. While some of these bad guys may die of desert exposure in the searing sun or unprotected cold, others will survive to carry out their dark, destructive plans. It's just a matter of time...

So maybe our politicians should think less about politics, and more about humanity and protection of the Homeland.

Seems simple enough to me. But then I live in Arizona, and I see and hear about these tragedies every day.

It's time our president stepped up and took control of our border. If, as Eric Holder's Justice Department argued in Phoenix federal court proceedings two weeks ago, Immigration control is exclusively within the province of the federal government, then the Feds should do their job. Instead, however, the Feds are obstructing Arizona from protecting itself, and are threatening to refuse to cooperate in the handling of those illegals Arizona saves or captures. The Dept. of the Interior won't even give our Border Patrol agents access to its borderline forests.

It's all about votes, folks. Notions of humanity and protection of those who are already citizens don't seem to count. If they did, these problems would have been solved a long time ago.

Watch the videos here:


KVOA Report, 7-19-10

KVOA Report, Part 2


Jean Henry Mead said...

Thank you, Ben, for your report and the video. I hope everyone watches it.

N. R. Williams said...

This certainly makes one think. I had no idea that this was going on. I knew there were illegals. Colorado has it's share. But we are not in the position to deal with the death rate this post describes. I will share this.


Chester Campbell said...

The politicians shed crocodile tears over the poor, mistreated illegals, but they do nothing to stop the flow of thousands more. They should all be forced to sit down and watch that video and read your post, Ben. But it wouldn't likely do any good. They're too addicted to the quest for those Hispanic votes.

Unknown said...

The Pinal County Sheriff's office tonight estimated 2600 illegals are passing through his county each day. And his county is more than an hour's drive north of the border. Our local news team rode with deputies as they chased illegal and smugglers through the washes the last few days. I'll post those vids when they put them on KVOA's website.

Mark W. Danielson said...

I just returned from a quick trip to Mexico where I had stops in Toluca, Guadalajara, and Monterey. In Toluca, I was issued a "shore pass", which I had to keep with my passport until I left Monterey for the States. Since 1952, the US has required people visiting this country to have a document saying they are here legally, and yet there is outrage over Arizona's trying to enforce that. If there isn't a problem, then why did the US just send more military troops to the Mexican border to attempt to curb the problem of illegals crossing into this country? Why is there so much opposition to protecting our borders? Why is there a double-standard for Mexico and the USA for requiring legal documentation? I'm totally confused by all this.

Bob Sanchez said...

I've read SB 1070, which strikes me as reasonable. The rhetoric on both sides of the illegal immigration issue seems overblown to me. But it's clear that the federal government has fallen down on the job. We need a bipartisan federal initiative to control the borders in the short term and to come up with an overarching immigration policy in the long term. The problem is even worse than illegal immigrants risking their lives to come here. We have to stop the northward flow of drugs and the southward flow of guns and money that fuels the cartels, or eventually the drug violence will come to the U.S.

Unknown said...

Excellent points, Mark. And Bob, I'd have rather had the legislature just make it a crime to be in this state unlawfully. I think the "reasonable suspicion" criteria will be mis-understood, as it's really a civil law term, not a criminal law term, so cops aren't as familiar with it. And I'm not nuts about the suing the state for non-inforcement aspect either, as that just means more tax dollars thrown to lawyers and more political nonsense. Frankly, I'd just prefer bussing them to California, where they seem to want them so badly. :)

Jaden Terrell said...

Ben, thank you for this thorough and well-thought-out post. People in the rest of the country need this information--especially when the people in this administration who condemn the Arizona law so publicly have never even read it.

Anonymous said...

Ben, I think you're being unduly harsh on the Obama administration. I don't believe it's all about politics. I think it's just that nobody knows what to do about the problem. They're being yammered at from all sides.

We go all over the world trying to solve everyone else's problems while our own just fester.

With all due respect to the environmentalists and the fence, they need to sit down and shut up. If it takes a fence to stop the flow, then build the fence.

Pat Browning

Unknown said...

Pat, it's not just the fence.

Pro-amnesty activists resist every effort to close the border or enforce immigration laws already on the books. The President could close the border and put a significant adverse impact on the smugglers who are spreading out through the desert and into our communities nationwide.

It would require more manpower, more equipment, more training, this at a time when people need jobs. Adding manpower and enforcing laws already on the books will upset Hispanics, by far the largest illegal presence, and with so many Hispanics having already made it, some of them amnesty benefactors from days gone by -- many with relatives already living here illegally, or knowing someone who is -- their vote will likely favor open border policies, although those Hispanics who've been here a long time and prospered, tend to support a more secure border. At least, that's what I've seen in polls.

In many cities across the U.S. a cop may not question an illegal's immigration status.

That's just nuts.

The president could change a lot of things; he just doesn't want to do it. Hispanics vote, and Obama's party needs all the votes it can get with mid-term elections on the way. Open border activists are working voter registration efforts, something Obama did so well with ACORN and other groups. It's about votes, Pat. It always is. Obama is playing Boss Tweed viz-a-viz Hispanics, much as Tweed courted the Irish.

Meanwhile, people are dying, and drug lord corruption and violence is increasing and spreading out.

Note please: When Janet Napolitano was Governor of Arizona, she pleaded for government troops and more resources to enforce our Arizona border, called it an emergency. Then Obama named her Homeland Security Director, and she changed her mind.

Why do you suppose she did that?

Anonymous said...


Regarding the Hispanic vote -- are there figures on how many votes that is, counting only legal voters?

You need ID to register to vote, so will illegals stay away and how many votes will a politician then lose? Will the cops man registration desks and voting stations to check IDs and arrest anyone with forged ID?

What kind of recommendation for democracy will that be? Voter intimidation belongs to third-rate countries, not this one.

It's not a simple problem.

Pat B.

Unknown said...

That sounds nice, but what about the New Black Panther Party and its voter intimidation practices and Eric Holder's refusal to take the matter on? Wasn't that voter intimidation?

Unknown said...

Pat, the Dept. of the Interior won't even let the Border Patrol access some of our border parkland. Needless to say, that's a major trafficking alley, especially south and southwest of Tucson.

Chester Campbell said...

If you want to see some census facts re the Hispanic population, which out It says 9.7 million voted in the 2008 presidential election. That's a significant number, and it will no doubt be topped in this fall's elections. With almost half the country's Hispanics living in California and Texas, they could easily swing elections in those states. It isn't the illegals Obama is concerned about, it's those legals who vote in elections.

Chester Campbell said...

Don't know how that "which out" got in my last comment. It should say "check out," of course.