Tense At The Arizona Border In Nogales
I had called her earlier to report that I survived my foray into Mexico and was on the highway driving back to Tucson. I told her that I’d been escorted off the US Border Patrol facility in Nogales, AZ and I’d explain later why, but that I was fine and not to worry.
I’d driven down to Nogales from Tucson where I’d been staying because I’d been hearing so much about goings-on there. Arizona and other border states are overrun with illegal aliens from Mexico and I wanted to see for myself. I discovered that the reports are quite true, and, if anything, they’re played down. “This is the busiest border station in the country,” one agent told me. I'd listened to US Senator Jon Kyl interviewed on an AM Talk station as I drove south on Route 19. He'd told constituents in Phoenix the other day about a private meeting with President Obama during which Obama told him: "The problem is, . . . if we secure the border, then you all won’t have any reason to support ‘comprehensive immigration reform.’” [Audible gasps were heard throughout the audience.] Sen. Kyl continued, “In other words, they’re holding it hostage. They don’t want to secure the border unless and until it is combined with 'comprehensive immigration reform.'" That, of course, is a euphemism for amnesty.
After walking over to the Mexican side for a few hours (seeing Obama's and Napolitano's pictures prominently displayed behind US border officials), I walked back and drove along “International Street” on the American side. The road parallels the border fence, and BP vehicles move constantly chasing illegals sneaking in. One BP agent was sitting in his modified Dodge pickup - modifed by wire mesh installed over the vehicle’s windows the way some Range Rovers have screens over their headlights. “You can’t go past here,” he said as I pulled up alongside and lowered my window.
“Why not?” I asked.
He abruptly put up his hand to an earpiece and said, “Gotta go.” He gunned it in reverse to get around me then shot up a steep hill in a cloud of dust.We were within the Nogales city limits, no more than 300 yards west of the border crossover point into Mexico I’d walked back and forth over that morning. I watched as he and two other BP agents scrambled around and talked into their head-mounted communication devices. I locked my rented SUV, strolled around and took pictures, very glad I’d invested in a 18-270 mm lens last year. When two BP vehicles parked next to each other up a steep gravel road, I got into my SUV and drove on up the steep rise where they were talking. I expected them to be angry and to order me away, but instead one uniformed agent, the one who had to scramble away so quickly, told me it was dangerous for me to be up there. “If you get hit in the head with a rock, don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
“Is that why you have that wire mesh over your windshield?” I asked.“Exactly,” he said.
“Do you guys need help keeping a lid on things here?” I asked.
“This is the busiest section of border in the country,” he said. “We arrested 57,000 illegals last year and that was down from 100,000 in 2007.”
“Right here in Nogales?”
“Yup. Right here in Nogales.”
“Probably have no idea how many got by you, right?”
He shrugged. "Somebody can cut a hole in that fence in about forty seconds."
"I saw where somebody had cut a doorway in it right over there," I said, pointing, "and somebody else welded it back up."
“It looks like the federal government wants to seem like it’s controlling the border without really controlling it,” I said. “Would you agree with that?”
He hesitated. My sense was that he did agree, but didn’t want to say. I’d revealed that I was a columnist from Maine and he was from Maine as well. “I suggest you talk to the Public Information Office about that. I don’t want to comment.” He referred me to Jorge Uques and wrote down his phone number. “We’re so busy here in Nogales, we’ve got our own Public Information Officer.”
“Where is he at?”
“1500 West La Quinta in Nogales. About three miles from here.”
I thanked him, plugged that into my GPS, and drove off.Looking through border fence from Nogales, AZ yesterday
1500 La Quinta looked like a military base. There must have been hundreds of green-and-white Border Patrol vehicles as well as horses and ATVs. I waited at the guard shack by the entrance but nobody came out, so I drove on in, parked in the designated visitors’ parking lot and walked inside. I stated my business to a receptionist who called Mr. Ugues on the phone.
“He’s not in. His grandmother died and he’s away. Someone else will come down.”
Agent Richard Funke, pronounced “funky,” came down the stairs and we shook hands. We exchanged business cards and I asked if he minded me recording our conversation. Wrong move. “Actually, you’ll have to talk to our Public Affairs Officer in Tucson,” he said. “He handles media relations.” We shook hands again and I walked out. I saw agents training with what looked like blue M-16s on a hillside and took pictures.Prominently posted in Nogales, AZ Historical Society building
Then a vehicle drove up and another agent told me “This is a federal facility and you shouldn’t be walking around without an escort. How did you get in here?” I explained, but that didn’t satisfy him. “What did you take pictures of?” He took my camera and erased the ones I took at 1500 West La Quinta, and gave it back. Then he called two other agents to escort me off the property.
Don’t know why they wanted my date of birth. Must be investigating me. I’ll be talking to the Public Information Officer in Tucson today.