SAN DIEGO—Newton’s third law of physics says that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, and it’s being played out in violent fashion along the nation’s southwest border.
Assaults against U.S. Border Patrol agents along a 260-mile stretch of the Arizona/Mexico border known as the Tucson sector, a desolate expanse of territory that is the nation’s major artery for illegal immigration, are on a record clip. In the first eight months of fiscal year 2005 there have been 163 recorded acts of violence against border agents compared with 118 for all of fiscal year 2004, according to the U.S. Border Patrol.
A major cause of the violence, say Border Patrol officials and agents, is that crackdown efforts are making people more desperate. Drug smugglers and human traffickers have become increasingly aggressive as their losses mount, border patrol officials said.
The violence “is indicative of the desire by the type of people coming here” to protect their illicit cargo, said Shawn Moran, a border patrol agent and San Diego local union official. “[President] Bush likes to say just good hearted people are trying to come across our borders,” Moran said, “but a number of them are hardened criminals with a criminal past and they are willing to do anything it takes.”
The State Department also is warning U.S. citizens about the violence, alerting the public about “the continuing unsettled public security situation” along the border. The warning says there is “violent criminal activity fueled by a war between criminal organizations struggling for control of the lucrative narcotics trade” and that the “criminals are armed with an impressive array of weapons.”
The violence against border agents runs the gamut from physical assaults, where a suspect actually fights with an agent, to “rockings,” in which agents and their vehicles are pelted with rocks or chunks of cement blocks, to vehicles being used to try and run agents down, to shootings.
The “rockings” have gotten so violent that border patrol agents now ride in “war wagons,” vehicles that are custom fitted with steel screens, said Joe Brigman, a border patrol spokesman in the Yuma, Ariz. sector.