Badlands: From Ground Zero of the Immigration Crisis Along the Mexican Border

Tougher border enforcement in California and Texas has spelled disaster for southern Arizona

That pays for a lot of new jobs, a lot of decent salaries and benefits.

Billions of dollars annually are netted by sophisticated and ruthless Mexican cartels that, according to numerous sources, are currently running almost all the illegal drugs and people into the States.

"This is the grand paradox of drug enforcement," Marcelo Bergman, a professor at Mexico City's Center for Economic Research and Education, wrote last month in the periodical Foreign Policy.

Cochise County rancher, cowboy poet, and retired Army brigadier general Bud Strom: "Now, at least, it suddenly has become advantageous for many politicos to play tough guy."
Paul Rubin
Cochise County rancher, cowboy poet, and retired Army brigadier general Bud Strom: "Now, at least, it suddenly has become advantageous for many politicos to play tough guy."
Coming back into the States from Agua Prieta, Sonora, at the port of entry in Douglas.
Coming back into the States from Agua Prieta, Sonora, at the port of entry in Douglas.

"Unless enforcement agencies can intercept virtually all of the drugs crossing the border—something that approaches impossibility—their efforts are likely to simply produce more formidable opponents."

Those who generally benefit the least financially are the huge majority of illegal immigrants, especially in Arizona's (and the nation's) current down economy.

Remarkably, the Mexican government recently issued a "travel advisory" about the dangers awaiting its migrating citizens in Arizona under the dark cloud of SB 1070.

But that government would have served its citizens better by looking within.

The human-rights organization Amnesty International concluded in a late-April position paper, "Thousands of undocumented migrants in transit through Mexico, including women and children, fall victim to beatings, abduction, rape and even murder."

The journey for migrants through Mexico, according to a researcher for the agency, "is one of the most dangerous in the world."

Those who do get across the border to try to start anew may become part of a grim statistic: American authorities recovered the bodies of 211 incoming illegal aliens in the Border Patrol's Tucson sector in 2009, according to human-rights groups and other sourcing.

The causes of death run the gamut—hypothermia, dehydration, gunshot wounds. A majority of the dead remain unidentified.

Mere hours before Napolitano tried to reassure the senators about our "secure" border, Elvira Brambila-Valejo died in the desert about 25 miles from Tucson.

She had just crossed into Arizona with her 15-year-old son and other illegal migrants, led by well-compensated human smugglers.

Border Patrol search-and-rescue agents responded to a 911 call from the boy, who told them coyotes had ordered him and his mother out of their vehicle because she was desperately ill. The agents used a GPS tracking system to locate the pair.

Brambila-Valejo, 44, was pronounced dead at the scene. The cause, according to the Office of the Pima County Medical Examiner, was peritonitis, an infection of the membrane that lines the inner abdominal wall.

Symptoms include severe, steady abdominal pain; abdominal distension; fever; chills associated with abundant perspiration; weakness; vomiting; and nausea.

Elvira Brambila-Valejo was one of five newly arrived illegal immigrants known to have died in southern Arizona that week. Two others died of heart attacks; the causes of death of the other two remain undetermined.

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Law-enforcement types at all levels keep insisting that 17 percent of the illegal aliens arrested last year in the Tucson sector had prior "serious" criminal offenses in the States.

But a scan of federal court records shows that the bulk of those arrested in the sector from March 1 to 15 of this year had no known criminal records in this country, other than previous busts for being here illegally.

That's apparently where the ubiquitous 17 percent is coming from.

The study by Phoenix New Times reveals that only 19 of 400 defendants whose case files were checked had prior convictions for crimes other than having been here before illegally.

Of those 19 with prior "serious" felony convictions, one served time for manslaughter before he was deported, two were convicted of sexual assault, and the others have criminal records for burglary and narcotics.

But all those stats mean nothing to Howard and Rosemary Hunt, an elderly couple who live in the beautiful bird-watching town of Portal in eastern Cochise County.

During the late afternoon of Jan. 20, the Hunts were home and getting ready for dinner when someone knocked on their door.

Standing there with another man was Eriberto Marquez, a 21-year-old illegal alien born in the Mexican state of Chihuahua.

Marquez spent his formative years near El Paso and has an 11th-grade U.S. education to show for it.

He speaks impeccable English.

Marquez's father was deported to Mexico after a domestic-violence conviction when the boy was 10. Marquez had worked in construction, landscaping, and as a cook in the States. Records show he, too, had been deported to Mexico after a burglary conviction.

But Marquez tells Phoenix New Times in a letter that he returned to Mexico voluntarily to be with his father before sneaking back to the States with 17-year-old Martin Chavira-Morquecho, from nearby Agua Prieta.

Marquez earlier had politely asked the Hunts for a ride a few miles away, but the couple said no. The two young men then immediately forced their way in, and Chavira-Morquecho brandished a small machete at Howard to show they meant business.

The weapon nicked Howard on a thumb during the short scuffle that ensued.

The intruders demanded money and credit cards, which the Hunts said they didn't have.

The men then bound the elderly couple with duct tape in a back bedroom and looked around the house for valuables. They left after a time, stealing the Hunts' Chevy Avalanche, about $100 in cash, some jewelry and a debit card.

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