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Ranchers say border security must precede immigration reform

On March 27, the ranching community was shocked by the death of Robert Krentz. In fact, it has shaken rural southern Arizona.

In 2005, Krentz explained in an interview the problems of illegal immigration on his ranch and warned the public that someone was going to get hurt. Krentz paid the ultimate price, and five years too late, we, the Arizona cattle industry and the American public, are demanding the federal government secure our border.

Since 2005, the communities in southern Arizona and northern Mexico have been infiltrated by criminal forces interested in moving drugs and human cargo across the border with no regard for the lives of Mexican or American citizens. The actions of these cartels have severely impacted the way of life along the U.S.-Mexico border and have fueled the fire of angst and anger here in the metropolitan areas.

The Krentz family and the ranchers of southern Arizona show no malice toward the Mexican people. The Mexican people are a part of our culture in southern Arizona, and the cattlemen who settled this area have lived and worked with the Mexican people for decades.

Our government has allowed criminals to take control of our southern border and through federal action have purposely established the so-called Arizona Corridor. Under the Bush administration, the federal government successfully secured the San Diego, Yuma and El Paso areas, leaving the path of least resistance in the Tucson Sector of the Border Patrol, which is responsible for 268 miles of international border.

The last policy change, known as “Operation Gate Keeper,” was successful in increasing security in the urban areas along the border in places such as Douglas and Nogales. But poor policies and planning by the federal government have left ranchers and rural areas outside of the cities as a gateway for drug and human traffickers.

Immediately following Krentz’s death, a small group of ranchers came to us with a plan to secure the border, which they had been working on for the previous 18 months. Krentz was part of developing the plan. In his memory, we termed the plan Restore Our Border (ROB). These ranchers have worked with several agencies in developing the plan including, Border Patrol, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and local law enforcement. The plan addresses all areas that are responsible for securing our border.

It was a complete coincidence that SB1070 was in the final stretch when Rob was murdered and the cattlemen released the Restore Our Border plan. However, the actions of the Legislature and the governor shined the light on the true issue, our southern border. The public knows the federal government has failed and does not have operational control of our southern border.

If we want to fix the issues and avoid turmoil over broken immigration policies, we need to focus our efforts on securing the border and restoring law and order to southern Arizona. Once the American public believes the border is secure and they can trust the federal government again, then we can have rational discussions about immigration reform. Immigration reform will not be successful until the federal government has operational control of our southern border.

For information on the ROB Plan visit: www.restoreourborder.org

— Patrick Bray is executive vice president of the Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association

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