- The Washington Times - Monday, August 16, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Imagine if, on a regular basis, you had drug runners with machine guns trespassing into your backyard from a foreign country and looking at you as if you’re the one with the problem. This is not a fictional scenario. It has happened to several of my friends in Arizona who own ranches near the U.S.-Mexico border and have had the bad luck to be stationed at crossing points for drug runners coming into the United States.

In one case, a friend of mine was up on a pole fixing a fence that had been torn down the day before by those crossing over illegally onto his property. He watched as three persons with machine guns came across from Mexico onto his ranch, and one of them looked up at him menacingly and said, “Everything OK?” After he was somehow able to speak again, he muttered a suitably innocuous answer, then went about his business and prayed that somehow he would survive.

Fortunately, in his case, he did. But for Robert Krentz, an Arizona rancher who was killed in March by someone authorities suspect was an illegal immigrant, fate was not so kind. The footprints of the suspected killer were followed from Krentz’s bullet-riddled body some 20 miles south back into Mexico.

Those of us who have been dealing with border issues for years were saddened but not shocked by what happened. If anything, we’re surprised that it hasn’t happened more often. Ranchers and others in Arizona deal with these dangerous situations on a regular basis, and when the Border Patrol is called in, the suspects often have disappeared.

There’s an even worse situation to consider. One friend of mine who has a ranch on the Arizona-Mexico border was awakened late one night by his dog barking. When he went to the window, he saw several men in military helmets and full body armor marching across his land, just a few feet from his house. That was strange enough, but when he heard them speak, a chill ran through him. My friend served with the U.S. Army in the Middle East and clearly recognized that the men were speaking Arabic. Because of his ranch’s location near the border, it was logical to assume that they were crossing from Mexico. He shuddered when he thought of where they might be heading and what they might be planning. Once again, when the Border Patrol arrived, the men were long gone, and they were never found.

Illegal immigrant traffic into Phoenix alone has been linked to spikes in crime rates, including murders related to drug trafficking and fatal car accidents involving unlicensed, drunken drivers. Add to this a tab in the billions of dollars for free health care and education for illegal immigrants and their children - all at taxpayers’ expense - and the thousands of jobs lost by legal citizens to the cheap labor offered by non-taxpaying, illegal workers. All of this sort of thing, of course, led to the law change that occurred this summer in Arizona, commonly referred to as S.B. 1070, which is meant to address the illegal immigration problem in the state that the federal government has largely chosen to ignore.

The very people in the federal government who for so long have turned their backs on the border problems in Arizona, Texas and California are complaining about human rights violations related to the Arizona law change. The law is very clear about requiring that police have a legitimate reason for stopping someone - not because he “looks Mexican.” If one has reason to suspect the person is illegal - such as presence in a crowded van on a known highway corridor for illegal crossings without a valid driver’s license or other proof-of-residency documents - then the officer may inquire about his immigration status and alert federal authorities, if necessary.

The same applies to a drug dealer who commits a violent crime. If he has no legal documents to validate his identity, that opens the door to reasonable suspicion about his legal-residency status. It is part of the government’s job to protect its citizenry from dangerous criminals and, in the case of illegals, to have them deported to their country of origin.

This is nothing new. Those who are in the United States as alien residents have been required to carry appropriate documentation with them since the 1940s. S.B. 1070 simply puts the pressure on the federal government to enforce that law.

However, there is a world of difference between reasonable suspicion and simply carding people at random, which is what some critics of S.B. 1070 assume is its intent. From a logical point of view, one has to ask - particularly in a time of economic hardship - how Arizona law enforcement personnel would have the resources to make random stops of drivers and other persons even if they have the legal right to do so.

Lack of evidence, however, has not stopped those who are very much opposed to the Arizona law from assuming it has features that it does not and that it is racist by nature. This is a very powerful accusation, and yet it is not backed up by the facts.

If, God forbid, another major terrorist incident takes place on U.S. soil, and it is committed by a member of an Islamic terrorist group who crossed into this country illegally from Mexico, the blood will be on the government’s hands. In the case of Robert Krentz and the thousands of other innocent citizens killed over the years by illegal immigrants, it already is.

It’s time we stop blaming Arizona for taking action against this massive problem and commend the state’s governor and citizens for their courageous and necessary step forward.

Carmen Mercer is one of the co-founders of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corp.

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