Tuesday, May 02, 2006
Chasing smugglers through rattlesnake-infested lands
The Sonoran Desert can be blazing hot during the day, but bone-chilling at night, especially this time of year. It's a vast, often forbidding, but spectacular place.

We spent a night roaming this area with a group of guys who form the tactical arm of the U.S. Border Patrol, called BORTAC.

These guys leave family and loved ones for seven weeks at a time to live out here in the desert. There are three shifts of about ten men apiece. The overnight shift can be the busiest, and sometimes, the toughest.

BORTAC agents are given the latest high-tech gadgets and infrared devices to track smugglers, but sometimes old-fashioned legwork and beating the brush ends up working best.

Smugglers often cross the border with large groups of illegal immigrants, sometimes 60 or even 80 in number. After crossing, they split up and try to scatter in the desert.

BORTAC agents drive along roads near the border searching for footprints and signs that groups of illegal immigrants are on the move. On our trip, I asked Russell Church, the team's leader, how he knows they won't just cross the road after we pass.

"We don't," Church said. "We just hope we can pick their tracks up the next time and pass the information on to the other agents farther north so they can flush them out."

As a routine part of their jobs, these agents will track illegal immigrants for miles through dense cactus and underbrush loaded with rattlesnakes. On the night I was with them, two agents from the overnight shift continued tracking some potential smugglers through ravines and gullies into the morning.

Around 8 a.m., three hours after their shift was over, they rounded-up 24 illegal immigrants with the help of a helicopter -- a small victory for the Border Patrol in what is shaping up to be a very large war.
Posted By Rusty Dornin, CNN Correspondent: 6:06 PM ET
  10 Comments
Here's to the Border Patrol. Hope they know that the majority of American citizens and LEGAL residents support their efforts. They seem to have a government job unsupported by the government. Just another unfunded mandate and hollow rhetoric wrapped in the flag by those with no respect for sovereignity or veterans of days gone by--the volunteers who fought the forgotten Mexican War and received bounty land in payment. Anything for a power job in DC or sanctuary cities. I would say we are watching a bloodless coup, except I am reminded of those lost protecting our borders and enforcing the laws.
Posted By Anonymous linda, bella vista, ar : 7:56 PM ET
Does anyone else find this sad? These people are in search of a better life. Our system is so screwed up.. that they have to resort to paying greedy smugglers to get them into our country.

How scared these people must be! Set free to run into the desert not knowing where they are running to. Then to be hunted down like animals?

These people are human, just like you and me. There has got to be a better way.
Posted By Anonymous Christine Weightman, Toms River, NJ : 10:07 AM ET
Sounds typical for under paid and over worked government workers. The National Guard with apache helicopters should back up the border patrol. When the next terrorist attack happens and it's only a matter of time. Then congress will wake up and secure the border and we the sheep of America will re-elect these idiots. If someone breaks into your home do go out and buy an alarm system after the fact? When you know that they were coming.
Posted By Anonymous Maya Joyce - Boulder CO : 10:35 AM ET
The border patrol has a tough job, and they've been under-manned and under-funded for way too long. Congress would rather spend the money on tax cuts for the wealthy who don't need it
and look the other way, nudging and winking to big business.

Someone else said it, why can't they hire more border patrol, and draw from the pool of people who are collecting unemployment to do this and other jobs the gov't needs done? Unemployment is money for nothing as it is.

We just went through a big "air marshall" program to train people to be on airliners with guns to fight terrorists. They obviously thought that was needed. So why can't we do somnething similar for the border patrol? We have high unemployment and people looking for good jobs. I'm sure lots of good people would apply.
Posted By Anonymous Bill W, Coatesville, PA : 1:10 PM ET
The sad fact is hundreds of illegal immigrants die in our desert every year and the number is increasing. I am offended that someone on this blog would call me sheep. The posts on here from people who have no idea what it is like to deal with this on a daily basis border on amusing. I did not vote for George Bush, but you can bet I exercised my right to vote. I did vote for Janet Napolitano, my governor!
Posted By Anonymous Melina - Mesa, AZ : 1:20 PM ET
The efforts of the border partrol are appreciated. If only citizens of this country who see nothing wrong with being in this country illegally would open their eyes instead of falling for all the retoric. I know for a fact that our worst, most violent gang members in the Texas prison system are members of the Mexican gangs, and their reach is beyond the prison walls. Just look at the "Railway Killer" in 1999 if anyone thinks they are all just looking for work and not doing any harm. It is time for people to stop with the bleeding hearts and get the blinders off. We have enough problems, enough crime in our country without having our doors open to invite more in.
Posted By Anonymous Tim, Hays County, TX : 1:26 PM ET
Put the military on the border to supplement the Border Patrol's activities. I'm sure our stretched-to-the-limit soldiers would much rather serve in their own country. It would certainly beat involvement in an unwinnable tribal war in a country populated by religious fanatics. After all, it as the Department of "Defense", isn't it?
Posted By Anonymous A. Roy Olson Tucson, AZ : 1:30 PM ET
Leviticus 19:33 states: "When a foreigner lives with you in your own land, don't take advantage of him. Treat the foreigner the same as a native. Love him like one of your own. Remember that you were once foregeigners in Egypt. I am God, your God."
If we really believe and fear or God we should be paying more attention to all this issue.
Posted By Anonymous Erwin Rubach, Phoenix, AZ : 4:02 PM ET
But it's a dry heat (at least that's what the rest of the country tells me). My response, "So is your oven." The sad fact is that hundreds of people will die in the Arizona desert this summer. Unlike the northern border, our border temps are over 100 F for six months out of the year!
Posted By Anonymous Melina - Mesa, AZ : 6:31 PM ET
Close the borders, send all the illegals that can be found out of the country at their expense. Make all the business that hire illegals pay to relocate them out of the country and if they continue to disobey the immigration laws deport them also!
Posted By Anonymous Gary, Prineville, OR : 6:52 PM ET
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