Published May 27, 2010
Arizona ranchers – still reeling from the recent murder of a fellow farmer – tell FoxNews.com that President Obama's plan to send 1,200 unarmed National Guard troops to the U.S./Mexico border won't provide the much needed border security.
National Guards will help with intelligence, reconnaissance and drug and human trafficking along the borders, but won't be on the front lines with Border Patrol and local law enforcement detaining illegal immigrants.
Rancher Wendy Glenn, whose Malpai Ranch just east of Douglas, Arizona, has roughly 4 miles of border fence, says having guardsmen review statistics isn’t enough. While she has noticed an increase in overall border security since the murder of fellow rancher Robert Krentz in March, Glenn says the latest strategy by the Obama administration doesn't address the key issue – stopping illegals from entering the U.S. through Mexico.
"We need more people on the border," she told FoxNews.com. "We don't need people sitting at desks. We would rather see more people on a border road."
Ranchers’ fears have grown since the March 27 murder of Krentz, 58, who cops say was gunned down by an illegal immigrant as the farmer – whose family has been ranching in southern Arizona since 1907 – was tending to fences and water lines on his 34,000-acre cattle ranch. Investigators believe Krentz encountered a drug smuggler who was likely heading back to Mexico.
Glenn said Krentz's killing, which remains unsolved, has brought "international attention" to illegal immigration and drug smuggling in southeastern Arizona's Cochise County. But that hasn't translated to increased presence where it matters most, she said.
"We're getting the attention, but we're not getting extra people on the border," Glenn said. "It would make more sense to us to get more people on the border and stop people from coming in."
A White House official declined to indicate whether the National Guard troops will assist in securing the border near Glenn's and Krentz's ranches.
"The National Guard will determine the units with the appropriate skills to carry out the missions in support of border protection and law enforcement activities," the official wrote in an e-mail. "As for where, when the decisions are made, they will be made with intel and operational considerations in mind."
Glenn Spencer, founder of American Border Patrol, a nonprofit organization that monitors the border by plane, said he regularly surveys the border and the "major smuggling corridor" where Krentz was killed. Spencer said he flew along a 28-mile stretch of land on Wednesday morning and saw just one Customs and Border Protection vehicle during his trip.
"It isn't enough," he said. "[The border] is not secure."
Spencer said utilizing the National Guard troops as Obama proposes is a "waste of resources" and says U.S. officials should put their energy into focusing on securing a border fence.
According to Customs and Border Protection figures, 646 of roughly 670 miles of pedestrian and vehicle border fencing has been constructed as of March. Just 6 miles of fencing infrastructure is left to be completed along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border. The roughly 1,350 miles that will not be protected by a border fence of any kind will be patrolled by border agents or technology -- or a combination of both.
Meanwhile, Roger Barnett, another rancher in the area who knew Krentz, said he has noticed no increase in surveillance near his cattle ranch in Douglas. He doubts that 1,200 troops -- on or off the border -- will make a significant difference.
"What a shell game, you might say," Barnett said. "To effectively close the border, I think they need 100,000 troops. I don't think it's going to help. It's just like putting a Band-Aid on that oil well in the Gulf."
T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council, a union representing 17,000 agents, agreed with Barnett's assessment.
"People shouldn't be surprised if the violence continues," Bonner told the Associated Press. "They shouldn't expect that the announcement of up to 1,200 National Guard members will send a shock wave of fear in the cartels and they will start playing nice."