Where ‘the Wall’ Ends in Cochise County, Ariz.

I’ve just returned from a trip through Cochise County, Arizona, which is almost smack in the middle of the Grand Canyon State on the southwest border directly across from the Mexican state of Sonora and the cities of Naco and Agua Prieta. It’s beautiful, but the most memorable sight was where “the wall” ends and the disorder begins, in a federal park called the Coronado National Memorial.

Cochise County. Cochise County is huge — at 6,219 square miles, the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined. However, with a population of just over 126,000, it is sparsely populated, and most (60 percent) is either state or federal land.

Whether you realize it or not, it’s what you probably think of when you think of “Old West.” Tombstone, “the town that’s too hard to die” and the scene of the OK Corral shootout, is there. So does the old mining town of Bisbee. John Wayne once threw Lee Marvin through a window at the city’s Copper Queen Hotel, which also hosted Teddy Roosevelt. It doesn’t get much more western.

The mines are now largely played out, and industry has now shifted to agriculture and the military.

On the military side, Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista, a “product of the Indian Wars of the 1870s and 1880s,” was once home to the legendary African American cavalry unit, the Buffalo Soldiers. The fort now houses the US Army Intelligence Center and the Army’s Network Enterprise Technology Command, since Cyber ​​supplanted sabers.

In terms of agriculture, there were more than a thousand farms in the county at last census (in 2017) with a gross value of nearly $145 million – $82 million in crops (including grains and nuts) and more than $62 million in livestock and poultry. Wide open country that takes me to the limit.

The border. About 84 miles from Cochise County sits on the US-Mexico border and is almost entirely open country on both sides. Here’s the view looking east from Montezuma Gap at Coronado National Memorial.

And here is the view from this promontory to the west.

If you look closely at the east elevation, you can see a dark line where various administrations have erected border fences. These fences are particularly absent when looking west.

This is what this fence looks like from the ground, looking west again.

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As you can see, the fence runs up the mountain and stops abruptly. At the end of the wall, construction was halted by President Biden days after he took office, and the panels on the right were to be installed on and above the mountain. Now they’re just a threat as far as the eye can see.

There are two notable landmarks as you look west along the fence line. The first is the zigzag cut into the mound. This was a serpentine road designed to allow border guards and local authorities access in all weathers.

I say in the past tense that it “was a switchback road” and “should be accessible in all weathers” with good reason. When Biden halted construction of the “Wall,” all construction stopped, including the road. Because the road surface was left unfinished, seasonal rains have largely washed it away, and DHS has closed access to it as a hazard.

The other landmark is also visible in this image, but you need to know where to look.

When the mountain drops, there is a lonely tree on the top left. Just below this tree is a small stone shelter that houses a Sinaloa Cartel scout. You’ll have to trust me on that, you’ll need binoculars to find the scout, but I’m told he (or she) is there 24-7, 365 days a year.

Local police and border patrol agents need to climb up the mountain and see the well-cared for scout now that the road is washed out, but there’s nothing they can do — the tree is on the Mexican side, and US authorities have no jurisdiction there.

From that point, the cartel confederate can monitor U.S. authorities for dozens of miles in both directions and relay that information to drug and people smugglers.

For the environmentally conscious, the then-current spotter at this location is also accused of starting the June 2011 “Monument Fire,” which burned more than 32,000 acres and destroyed 84 homes and other buildings. Although it happened more than a decade ago, the scars of that fire are still everywhere in the form of charred trees and burnt bark.

The dangers of bad politics. The rusting fence panels aren’t the only indication of the Biden administration’s ill-considered and knee-jerk decision to halt construction of border barriers.

Mounds of ground rock — intended for paving material — line the dirt path along the border, as do Jersey Walls, which were shipped to the site and left there when Biden called his stop.

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These piles of wasted building materials pose a hazard as they can be used by smugglers to hide from, avoid and attack them and attack border guards and local officials. However, because the boundary wall system is an “all-in-one package,” these materials cannot be removed any more than they can be used.

Speaking of the “all-in-one package,” the border in Coronado National Monument is littered with light poles and light pole foundations. However, they are all useless because the lights themselves have never been connected and the foundations are not completed, although the infrastructure to complete them and power them is largely in place.

And yet it gets worse. Because the fence road was never completed, it is vulnerable to undermining in an area exposed to flash floods from the south. The drainage would have allowed water to flow freely, but because it was never completed, debris is piling up on the south side of the fence, threatening to undermine and topple the completed portions of the fence.

There are flood gates in the fence, but in places they are more of a hindrance than an improvement.

The “monsoon season” in the desert lasts from late spring to summer, and I’m told these floodgates have been open since May.

Access through this open gate could be controlled if there were enough border guards and cameras to monitor this section of fence, but again, these cameras should be part of the (incomplete) wall system and there are many more few agents there stationed.

At the end of fiscal 2020, 3,615 agents in the Tucson sector of the Border Patrol, which includes Cochise County and the Monument, were responsible for 262 miles of largely rugged and wide-open border. These agents are so busy processing, caring for, transporting and (often) releasing illegal entrants that the local highway checkpoint has been closed and unmanned for months.

SABER. During the days I spent at the memorial and in Cochise County, I never saw a uniformed border patrol officer, although I spotted four plainclothes officers serving an initiative of the Cochise County Sheriff’s Department called the Southeastern Arizona Border Region Enforcement (SABER). belonged )”.

SABER is the brainchild of County Sheriff Mark Dannels, and as part of this initiative, local legislators have installed and operated hundreds of “Buckeye” trail cameras at strategic locations along the border. Program officers and agents can then be dispatched to arrest those crossing the border illegally.

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While SABER has been effective in deterring drug smuggling across the Cochise County border, human smuggling is a different issue. Most migrants crossing the border are not “give-ups” – migrants trying to morph into border police – but rather “runaways” trying to avoid detection and arrest to head inland to travel.

They are mostly military-age men and are dressed almost exclusively in camouflage from head to toe. In an interesting anecdote I was told that the smugglers are sending so many migrants across the border that they are facing supply shortages south of the border.

While their intentions are usually unknown, more than two-thirds of these illegal frontiers successfully make their way into the United States. And local officials can only detain migrants themselves for a “reasonable amount of time.” So when the Border Patrol can’t respond, they have to reluctantly release those they catch who aren’t drug dealers and who don’t have a criminal record in the United States.

This is in no way acceptable, but nonetheless, the residents I spoke to are grateful to the sheriff’s office for assuming what is fundamentally and ultimately a federal responsibility. While the White House may not care about their lives and belongings, Sheriff Dannels and his team at MacGyvers do.

Incalculable waste. How much of the border infrastructure at Coronado National Monument has been wasted by Presidential intransigence? Good question, and unsurprisingly the White House hasn’t said anything, even though I’ve been given figures of up to $125 million for washed-out roads and rotting material.

As annoying as the fiscal costs are, the missed opportunities are worse. Biden, who trumpeted himself as a proponent of border walls during his previous White House races, derided them during his 2020 presidential election, claiming on his campaign’s immigration website, “Building a wall will do little to deter criminals and cartels who seek to exploit our borders.” “

Biden’s claim that border fences “will do little to deter criminals and cartels” is demonstrably false in Cochise County, Ariz. Americans are worth millions of dollars. We will all pay the price for years to come.

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