- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 25, 2002

SIERRA VISTA, Ariz. It was 1998 when Roger Barnett first began to notice the trash and the tracks.

His 22,000-acre Cross Rail Ranch near Douglas, 50 miles east of here, had become a major route for illegal aliens headed out of Mexico. The ranch sits in what Cochise County authorities call "the avenue of choice" for illegal immigration.

"Thousands of aliens have crossed my property," said Mr. Barnett, a businessman here. "There are so many that I can tell you that at times it looks like a slow motion invasion. Literally, I feel like the guy with his finger in the dike, and I just don't think I can hold back the flood."

Mr. Barnett, 59, began rounding up illegal aliens after he said they started to vandalize his property, northeast of Douglas along Highway 80. He said the aliens tore up water pumps, killed calves, destroyed fences and gates, stole trucks, and broke into his home.

Some of his cattle have died from ingesting the plastic bottles left behind by the aliens, he said, adding that he installed a faucet on an 8,000-gallon water tank so the immigrants would stop damaging the tank to get water.

Mr. Barnett said some of the ranch's established alien trails are littered with trash 10 inches deep, including human waste, used toilet paper, soiled diapers, cigarette packs, clothes, backpacks, empty one-gallon water bottles, chewing-gum wrappers and tin foil which is used to pack the drugs the immigrant smugglers give their "clients" to keep them running.

He said he carries a pistol during his searches for the aliens and has a rifle in his truck "for protection" against immigrant smugglers and drug smugglers. He said he has rounded up as many as 86 illegal immigrants in one night, and he turns those he apprehends over to the U.S. Border Patrol.

A former Cochise County sheriff's deputy who later was successful in the towing and propane business, Mr. Barnett spent $30,000 on electronic sensors, which he has hidden along established trails on his ranch. He searches the ranch for illegal immigrants in a pickup truck, dressed in a green shirt and camouflage hat, with his handgun and rifle, high-powered binoculars and a walkie-talkie to communicate.

"If the government doesn't get this under control, we are going to become a Third World nation," he said. "As for me, I can hold out for a bit as long as my health remains good. I intend to stay the course, because I just can't give up."

His sprawling ranch became an illegal-immigration highway when the Border Patrol backed by an infusion of manpower, equipment and technology diverted its attention to several border towns in an effort to take control of the established ports of entry. That effort moved the illegal aliens to the remote areas of the border, including the Cross Rail Ranch.

Mr. Barnett believes one answer to the problem of continuing illegal immigration would be the assignment of U.S. military forces along the border, particularly in the areas outside the towns now controlled by the Border Patrol. But he doubts that will ever occur.

"Something has to be done or there's going to be bloodshed," he said, noting that while he has contacted more than 300 members of Congress about the problem, he has seen little effort in Washington to address the issue.

"If this continues, our country is not going to be the same," he said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Barnett's actions have drawn the attention of the Border Patrol in Tucson, which has taken sworn statements from some of the people he has detained, and from the FBI, which began a preliminary investigation last year into accusations that he violated the aliens' civil rights. No charges have been filed.

"It's my understanding that some of the illegal aliens told the authorities that I had scared them," Mr. Barnett said. "Well, stay the hell off my property."

His actions at the ranch also have made him a target of immigrant smugglers and drug smugglers in Mexico. Law-enforcement authorities told him the smugglers had placed a bounty on his head.

"This is my land. I'm the victim here," Mr. Barnett said. "When someone's home and loved ones are in jeopardy and the government seemingly can't do anything about it, I feel justified in taking matters into my own hands. And I always watch my back."

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