All along the United States – Mexico border ranchers work day and night to feed a groggy nation. That nation is slowly awakening to a truth the ranchers have known for some time; the border is not secure and the Mexican cartels are in control since the U.S. government relinquished it.
The ranchers, like John Ladd, work tirelessly to feed us while protecting themselves and their families. They have been abandoned on the U.S. soil that they have occupied for over a hundred years.
“The media lies, and the people in Washington D.C. lie and they absolutely refuse to tell the truth,” says rancher Ed Ashurst. “That’s why I am here. We’re not the only ones who say this but, that’s my whole deal, that’s why I agreed to talk. The American people do not know the truth about what’s going on here.”
Ashurst, who ranches near Lordsburg, New Mexico, joined John Ladd on his Arizona ranch to discuss the situation on the border between Mexico and the United States.
The border is wide open
“People just need to know the facts. The first thing is, the powers-that-be in Washington D.C. including congressmen, the Attorney General, and right up to the president and the director of Homeland Security are telling people that the border is safe and secure, and it all boils down to the border’s not secure it is wide-open.”
“If you are in Mexico and you have sack full of cash, and you have the right connections you can be in any city in America in hours and you are guaranteed to not get caught,” says Ashurst.
Ashurst is tired of hearing since 9/11 that the border is secure. “I’m not saying we’re going to be attacked and that an Islamist extremist has run across John’s ranch. I don’t know, but I do know that if you’re in Mexico and you want to be over here and you have money you can get in. But if you’re a Guatemalan who has walked through Mexico to flip burgers or change sheets in a motel room it’s an entirely different story. If you are on the border and you have money you will not get caught.”
For those on the southern border that is a simple truth. No longer are the struggling Guatemalan and Mexican families coming across the border as they used to, now the cross-border traffic is criminal. And that criminality has infected the entire region.
Too many good people have been compromised
Ashurst echoed what many say; in border towns like Nogales, Naco, and Douglas, formerly honest people have been forced into the drug trade in one capacity or another. Ashurst believes that up to 70 percent of the people are compromised, but Ashurst notes that many believe the number is closer to 40 to 50 percent.
“They’re laundering money for the cartels, they’re picking up drugs, they’re packing money back into Mexico. Close to half the people in this area are involved in illegal activity, so that’s one thing. Another thing; the Mexican outlaws have an intelligence network that far surpasses anything the CIA, the FBI, or anyone else has.” Ashurst says that the cartels, “know what’s going on here” because “the only thing that matches the level of corruption in our government agencies such as the Border Patrol is the incompetence.”
Ladd and Ashurst do not fault the individual agents for the situation. They acknowledge that the agents are, for the most part, only following orders.
A fearless man; he’s what John Wayne wished he was
“You have some agents that are corrupt. Not everyone who works for the Border Patrol is corrupt but, the corruption is astounding.” Ashurst says the average American is misled about how the Border Patrol works. “The average American thinks that the Border Patrol is like the armed services. ‘You get your hind end to that border and you stand at mile marker so and so with your weapon on your spot.’ But that is totally not the way it happens; they are protected by a labor union, they work 8 to 5 or whatever, and they don’t have to do anything. They do not have to do anything. And because of the political climate in America they are encouraged to do nothing, if not blatantly ordered to look the other way.”
Ashurst told of a friend whose ranch is closer to the Nogales Port of Entry and the infamous Tucson check point about 20 miles north of the border. He said that his friend was out in the “rough country” of his ranch when he “rode up on seven Mexicans in full camo and some of them had semi-automatic rifles. He rode down the trail a ways, and came across two Border Patrol agents. He told them… and this is a fearless man, a rugged man. I mean he’s John Wayne. He’s what John Wayne wished he was, and he said, ‘We can go back and we can get them all,’ and they (BP agents) said we don’t care. They refused to pursue the cartel members and 7 miles from that spot is where Agent Brian Terry was shot down.”
“So you have the checkpoint right there with 30 or 40 agents sitting there with her thumbs up their hind ends and doing nothing. Out there, only several miles away there’s hundreds and thousands pounds of dope and lots of Mexicans.” Ashurst asks, “Why is that?”
He answers his own question; he and many others believe that the cartels will send a few small loads through the checkpoints, while sending massive loads across the desert.
Not on their land
Ashurst has locked the Border Patrol off of his land. Ladd has locked them out of certain sections. They must. They simply cannot afford the damage caused by Border Patrol agents.
Ashurst understands that according to the law, he cannot deny them access to land up to 25 miles north of the border, but since he removed their locks, illegal traffic on his land has dropped dramatically. “They were screwing around, not doing nothing, tearing up my ranch, running into cattle and killing them. I was filing claims to be reimbursed and they would not reimburse me.”
Ashurst will allow the agents to enter his land on foot. Ladd only keeps them off certain portions. He welcomed the agents on horses and said they highly effective, which of course is why the two men believe that the horse patrols are nearly a thing of the past.
Ladd’s family has worked their ranch for over one hundred and fifteen years. He locked out the agents about six years ago because they were constantly leaving gates open. He told of an occasion in which he had isolated a group of calves for auction and told the agents to leave the gates alone. The agents ignored him and left a gate open. “They left them wide open and cost me a lot of money and I locked them out then. Over the years, I deal with them more than Ed does. The difference is, I’m on the border.” As a result, Ladd has little choice but to grant them access to his cherished land.
Ladd says that the border ranchers are victims of both governments. “The Mexican government and our government are coordinating the people coming in. I had two guys who were pretty high up in the Border Patrol, both are retired now, and they said the Border Patrol’s main mission was to control the influx of Mexican citizens so as not to hamper the activities in the city. They wanted to meter the people in, to let them assimilate, and then get jobs.”
“I got elected to be the Border Patrol liaison 23 years ago because we didn’t allow Border Patrol on the ranch. I’ve never thought much of the Border Patrol and I think even less of them now, but we were having so much trouble that my dad and I decided to let them come in and start catching them. But I lose up to 10,000 gallons of water every day, with loose gates, broken fences. Eight cows were hit by Border Patrol and I didn’t get paid for one. I don’t know how many water tanks and how many gates I’ve lost.”
Ashurst interrupted, “The Border Patrol, which run through the gates, back over them, they are like a junior in high school with a hot rod car, an extremely high dose of testosterone, and $50,000 pickup full of government gas. There just after hot roddin’ and don’t care. It’s like a bunch of kids.”
Ladd says that he doesn’t have “any close friends but does have some friends in the Border Patrol. “I have been dealing with them over 25 years and there’s five of them that I trust, and three of them are retired. And I deal with them every day. Number one; they’re not our friends. They look at us, and talk about us as if we do something. That we are involved, that we’re dirty.”
With certain sadness Ladd said, “You know your ranch. You’re not going to let somebody tear it up. The Border Patrol expects you to know ‘we’re here and we’re going to tear it up’ and we’re saying, no you’re not.”
Ladd tried for 23 years to develop a written agreement between himself and the former Board Patrol chief, David Aguilar, but was unsuccessful. “When David Aguilar was the head of the Border Patrol he was the problem. I think he is that extremist that has infiltrated the system, in my opinion. The Border Patrol is the federal agency that controls the 25 mile strip not only on the southern border but around the whole country.” He stops to let the seriousness of his statement sink into the listener’s mind.
The implications of his statement are not lost on anyone who has seen just how devastated the border area is and the implications of that deterioration on the welfare of the entire nation.
“Before 9/11, you had to be a pretty good individual to make the Border Patrol. After 9/11, they reduced the hiring requirements, they cut the training, and now the concentration is on whether you speak Spanish. They supposedly teach them ranch etiquette, and have ranch tutors. It does not work. I don’t like them; they’re part of the problem. They are the problem.”
Ladd says that a few ranchers got together and tried to help the Border Patrol understand ranches. “But it’s a dog and pony show, they say ‘we’re so glad to see you here.’ But you know they are out of their element. They come from Buffalo, New York, and have no clue. If you don’t want to listen to us, I don’t want to work with you. They do not want to teach their agents about ranching.”
But the ranchers need to learn about them, and they do.
They caught one
Ladd’s ranch is completely surrounded by Border Patrol infrastructure. “I’ve got a steel wall, the whole ranch has permanent cameras, 300 ground sensors on my ranch, there is $40 million worth of government infrastructure on this ranch and nothing changed since 23 years ago.”
The infrastructure has not stopped the cartels. In the last 25 months, 46 truckloads of drugs have come though ravaging his land as they have ravaged the fabric of our country. The cartels simply cut through the steel mesh fence. So far, only one truck has been stopped on his land.
In March, the cartels’ driver drove over a rock road his crew had constructed. Apparently, unable to control his vehicle speed, the driver’s airbag deployed forcing the vehicle to stop.
Ashurst said, “The driver then had to abandon his load but passed under an 80 foot tower with the million-dollar camera that will allow the Border Patrol to read the license plate from 3 miles away and then after the fact we find out that the camera has been down for a week.”
The driver was never caught, but the dope was seized and counted as a victory.
The truck conveniently drove right under a Border Patrol camera that was not working.
No one believes that the broken camera was a coincidence.
The day before our interview, Ladd had seen a migrant, likely a scout for the cartels, come across his land. “I’ve caught more Mexicans than any Border Patrol agent up here.” He explained that one day he called to report a drug runner on his land. “I drive down to feed some cows and with that, a guy comes out from one of the bridges. It took me about five minutes to decide whether to call Border Patrol or not. There’s a camera over there, and one over there, and there’s one right here, and a primary camera over there,” Ladd gestures around the ranch.
Ladd decided to call. He reached an agent who told him that he was the only agent in the area. So, he described the man to the agent and then asked, “Where are you?” The agent responded that he was in Naco, which is 30 minutes away from Ladd.
When the agent asked Ladd what the man looked like, Ladd laughed and asked him why he couldn’t see the man with all the cameras around. The agent, who according to Ladd is a good guy, then asked how he thought the agent should catch him. Ladd laughed again, “You’re asking me?” Ladd explained that the man would have already made his way to the main road and would be well on his way to his destination by the time the agent got to the ranch.
Ladd said that there are about 400 agents at the station near his ranch, and Douglas has about 600 agents, with Nogales, the largest crossing on the border, having about 700 agents.
“It’s a deliberate strategy to let Mexicans get here,” said Ladd. “The Mexicans that come back-and-forth are simply scouting.” The drug traffickers use the west end of his ranch, and on the other end the human bait; poor migrants, are used as a distraction. Ladd says that the agents would rather catch the migrants than the cartels.
On April 1st a group of religious leaders gathered to pray for the migrants who cross the border. Other than gain publicity, the “holy men” ignored the fence full of holes and the people on both sides being ravaged by the cartels. The holy men didn’t condemn the cartels or the corrupt governments on both sides of the fence.
Everyone is being used or abused
Ashurst and Ladd explain that the problem does not lay with the agents. “The problem,” says Ladd, “is no discipline, no accountability, and then they’re controlled by a guy in the union. After agents Terry and Ivie were killed, the highest ranking Border Patrol official in Washington and the highest ranking official west of Washington, who is in Tucson right now, made the statement that the most important thing for the Border Patrol is for the agents to go home to their families. While I’ve been accused of being cold-blooded, if you don’t think that’s important then you’re not very smart. But you’re making a $50,000 year as your base pay. You are a federal officer with the gun and badge and your duty is to protect the border. I think that you have some risk in there and you might not go home to your family if you’re going to do your job. But they actually will not do their job.”
According to sources, Cochise County Sheriff deputies start at $40,000 a year, and marines start at approximately $21,000 a year and they are expected to protect and serve no matter what the cost to themselves.
Ashurst and Ladd concede that the agents are not allowed to do their job. “They have been pulled back about 25 miles away from the border, says Ladd. “When I go from here to Ed’s, I see more Border Patrol than I see anywhere down here. That would be 25 miles away from the border.”
When rancher Rob Krentz was killed, Ashurst took congressmen to the border three times. He took one author and one Tea Party group from North Carolina to see the scene of the “where the outlaw who killed Rob Krentz went through the fence about 12 miles straight from Douglas.”
In all those trips, he never saw one Border Patrol agent.
They do not live in America
It pains Ed Ashurst when he explains the ranchers’ lot. “David Aguilar, who was the head agent at the time of Rob’s death made a public statement that is very well documented. He said basically… and this isn’t word for word, but he said the borders are not a line. The border is an area 25 to 50 miles north; an undefined area. You cannot say that the border is a line. That’s the government’s mentality okay, fine and dandy, but what that has done…. and that’s what really hurts John… and we may disagree in some points… but we all agree that this area… this undefined place that Aguilar has announced has no line, has created an almost Third World. It’s not part of regular America anymore. So John, or me, and all of our cowboy rancher friends, we don’t really live in America.”
“We’re not really Americans anymore because we live in this place that Obama and Napolitano have defined as an undefinable gray area and we need all that area to do whatever they do. I’m not the nicest guy on the block. I have no criminal record. Never been arrested. John does not have a record. We never fail to pay our taxes. I have never gotten any kind of government assistance. I never got food stamps. I wouldn’t even know how to go about getting it, so I’m kind of what you would call a straight shooter. So we live in an area where 50 percent of people are corrupt, another 30 percent are downright stupid, and 20 percent of us are patriots. Some of us are even maybe Democrats. It is not a Democrat or Republican thing, and all of a sudden we wake up and realize we are the enemy.”
“I have screamed at Gabrielle Giffords across the table. I know Ron Barber quite well and we have extreme dislike for each other. I know Martha McSally. I know them all. Except McCain, they all come down here when they want to run for office. They want to come and get their picture taken with us, but when it comes to actually doing something they come down here, they stand up and give a speech, but when they get back to wherever the powers-that-be are, they disappear all of the sudden. All of a sudden they disappear and you get sick of it. Just because we have the bad luck to live here doesn’t not mean that we live and play by their rules.”
The greatest minds
At the Gadsden Hotel in Douglas , Senator John McCain, a group of the leading ranchers in Cochise County, Cochise Sheriff Mark Dannells and several deputies and a politician McCain invited from the east coast who appeared to be a duck out of water, discussed immigration reform in closed door meeting. After McCain’s presentation, one of the most well-respected ranchers in attendance asked McCain politely, “Who will determine whether the border is secure? Will it be all of you in Washington D.C. or will it be us; the people who live on the border?” McCain answered, “It will require the greatest minds in the nation.” The rancher asked again, “Senator McCain, who will determine whether the border is secure? All of you back in Washington D.C. or those of us on the border?” McCain could not hide his growing anger and resentment. He sneered and in a condescending tone said, “It will require the greatest minds in the nation.” It was clear to the ranchers at that moment that McCain believed them to be rubes. Clearer still, was the evidence that the powers-that-be held them in contempt and had little interest in their interests.
Ashurst scoffs, “McCain, Obama and Congress, as a whole, have caused our economy to collapse and our country to lose its standing in the world and he had the nerve to tell us that he is part of the collection of the greatest minds in the world? To people like us, it is dumbfounding that he could make a statement like that.”
An honorable life in the abandoned land
The hardworking ranchers along the southern border do not play by the same rules as those that govern them. They play fair, and shoot straight. They don’t make promises they can’t keep. They don’t stand in the name of God, like the “holy men” and celebrate lawlessness and lawbreakers. They follow the rules, and expect only for others to do the same.
Unlike the “holy men” and politicians the compassion they show comes at their own expense.
They feed the country, and in return, their government starves them of security.