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America's Third War: Arizona Border Patrol Curbing Crime With Technology

 

In spite of radar, helicopters and infared cameras, the fight to protect the U.S. border often comes down to a simple footrace.

U.S. Border Patrol Agent Eric Cantu has learned to take away the shoes of those he catches before going after more. He says the situation on the border has gotten better, citing a drop in apprehensions from 600,000 illegal aliens to 200,000 over the past ten years.

"We are the experts," he says. "We are the ones who are out here every day, not just talking about it. Things are definitely getting better. Our technology is a force multiplier."

That assertion draws laughter in suburban Saddlebrook, Arizona.

Is the border more secure?" Sheriff Paul Babeu asks a gathering of a several hundred at a town-hall style meeting, as he walks the aisle with a microphone. The response is laughter, then angry shouts of "No."

A slide show of rapes and murders committed in Pinal County by illegal aliens stokes the local anger even further.

"We had a rancher that couldn't go out on his own ranch. And his dog, they shot him and his dog on his own ranch on his own property, and no one knows who did it and they aren't catching these people," says Lynn St. Angelo.

Her sentiments are echoed by several members of the audience. There is a real sense here that the Federal Government is failing to protect those that live along the border, despite recent assurances from the head of the Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano that the security situation has improved.

Back out in the Arizona desert there are no microphones, no applause, just silence all around as Agent Cantu and a second agent crouch behind shrubs, like hunters in a blind. In the distance can be made out more of what some agents refer to as "bodies," illegal aliens, this time a group of twenty.

The agents are told to stay put. The path of the illegals is being tracked by another agent on a distant hilltop in a mobile surveillance vehicle. The group of twenty is walking directly towards the crouched agents. Cantu has turned his Border Patrol hat backwards. The yellow emblem on the hat reflects the sun and can give away the agent's position.

They wait...then spring. For the next twenty minutes young men and women scatter in different directions as the agents try to chase them down.

This round 18 of 30 are seized.

"I learned a long time ago a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. So you take what you can," says Agent Cantu.

One wave is packed off for processing in the back of a small truck. Another group is already visible, moving along the horizon. The work never stops.

As the sun prepares to set behind mountains, another shift of agents comes in for duty. Cantu's green Border Patrol uniform is covered with dust. In the last encounter he ran down four illegal aliens by himself. He is breathing heavy and rolls down the window of his Suburban to spit. He will be back at it again tomorrow. Even with technology, against overwhelming numbers there is only so much one man can do.

Steve Harrigan currently serves as a Miami-based correspondent for Fox News Channel (FNC). He joined the network in 2001 as a Moscow-based correspondent.