Adventures from Back of Beyond

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Ground Zero for Illegals

The Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge is located in extreme southern Arizona, bordering Mexico. It's vast grasslands and unusual desert riparian areas support numerous interesting and endangered species.

We recently explored the Buenos Aires NWR, to check out the wetlands, which attract lots of birds, including colorful neotropical migrants, the unusual Arizona (Coue's) whitetail deer, and the pronghorn antelope that graze the extensive grasslands. But what's most remarkable here is the omnipresence of La Migra -- the U.S. Border Patrol. They are everywhere.

Staff at the NWR's tiny visitor center told us an estimated 1,000 illegal immigrants attempt to cross into the U.S. every night through the refuge's wide open spaces and desert washes. Do the math, that's an incredible number. Hence the Border Patrol...plus Homeland Security, and the Arizona National Guard. This is ground zero in efforts to shore up our porous southern border.

We saw countless Border Patrol passenger vans, SUVs, backcountry patrols on ATVs, full size buses emblazoned "Homeland Security." Plus the National Guard was out on patrol in full military regalia. Navajo trackers -- supposedly the best foot trackers in the world -- are also employed in the backcountry.

Right on the Mexican border, just south of the refuge, sits the little town of Sasabe, Arizona. Supposedly hundreds of millions will be spent to build a two-tier border fence hundreds of miles long in this area, but it was nowhere to be seen in Sasabe.

The little town itself was interesting. Not much more than a bend in the road, really, Sasabe we found to be friendly and full of character. It is very connected to Sasabe, Sonora, both culturally and economically. It was there, in the Sasabe store, we met proprieter Debra.

Bilingual, Debra is a fourth generation Arizonan from Sasabe. Striking up a conversation, she showed us in the back of the store the private little bar she opens on weekend nights only, mostly for invited friends. If you're not a regular, it's best to call ahead so she knows you're coming. What an unusual place to hoist one.

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