Arizona replaces controversial signs warning residents of illegal drug activity
Arizona signs confirming that drug and human smuggling activity was taking place well inside the Arizona border have received a face lift and now offer campers and hikers different information when they travel to the Arizona public land regions.
The new sign now reads, “Visitor Information Update- active federal law enforcement patrol area, clean-up and restoration crews at work, contact BLM rangers for current area status.” In smaller print in the lower left-hand side of the sign provides the Bureau of Land Management district office phone number and encourages residents to call 911 for emergency.
The tamer BLM signs sparked speculation as to why Arizona’s Bureau of Land Management decided to make the change. Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio put it in plain and simple language; “They were embarrassed.”
“Arizona’s BLM decided to change the signs after they created a national hysteria and they decided to temper it,” said America’s toughest Sheriff. “What the new signs should read is ‘anyone caught smuggling drugs or humans are going to jail.” In an ironic twist, Sheriff Arpaio is in the process of working with BLM to have prisoners in his jails, including illegal aliens, to go into the desert and clean up the trash.
The new signs went up over the weekend as a result of a Congressional bill that granted $600 million to increase border security measures. BLM received a special $200,000 emergency grant to conduct and increase patrols in the southwest portion of Arizona in an effort to saturate the region, according to BLM spokesperson Debrah Stevens.
The new “temporary signs” are part of BLM’s three-prong approach to restore or mitigate the land damaged from illegal alien layup activity, construct physical barriers on roadways used by suspected illegal traffickers and acknowledge that armed BLM rangers are patrolling the area.
“We are working with 50 other law enforcement agencies including, tribal, county, Border Patrol, Sheriff’s Departments to secure the region. The intel provided to us confirms we are having a positive affect and have seen a decrease in activity,” Stevens explained.
While that may be true local activists and law enforcement say the summer months typically see fewer human and drug traffickers due to the extreme desert heat, plus the high-profile tactic BLM chose only forewarned the bad guys and diverted their activities elsewhere along the border.
Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu pointed out that; “We are three counties deep. How is it that you see pictures (BLM signs) like these? How is that okay?”
Babeu continues to explain that his department is “outgunned, out manned” and don’t have the resources locally to fight this growing problem.
Just a hop, skip and jump south to Mexico the cartel murders continue unabated.
Mexico experienced its deadliest day ever this year and 85 citizens lost their lives in a single day due to drug cartel territory wars and brutality.
The recent bloody Friday in Mexico was summed up by local news reports as organized crime-related mayhem. “In what constitutes the most violent day since the present federal administration began the frontal struggle against organized crime, 85 people lost their lives in acts related directly to ‘adjustments of affairs’ between rival gangs, confrontations and assassinations with high-caliber firearms,” local newspapers reported.
Over the weekend in Juarez and Tijuana the mass murders resulted in 14 young people dying while celebrating a birthday in Juarez and 13 people were executed facedown at a Tijuana drug rehab facility.
Monitoring the violence in Mexico is what lead to the original signs being put up in the Arizona desert. The old signs read; “Danger Public Warning, travel not recommended active human and drug smuggling area, visitors may encounter armed criminals and smuggling vehicles traveling at high rates of speed. Stay away from trash, clothing, backpacks and abandoned vehicles. If you see suspicious activity, do not confront (underlined) move away and call 911. The BLM encourages visitors to use public lands north of Interstate 8.”
Arizona law enforcement and federal agencies are well aware of the violence their southern neighbors deal with on a daily basis. As a result Stevens mentioned that BLM is working with the Alliance to Combat Transnational Threats, an organization that works closely with agencies on both sides of the border. “We feel our increased patrols are having a positive impact,” she said.
However, state Senator Russell Pearce couldn’t disagree more with the folks at BLM; “This is nothing more than a political game. And shame on them for putting real American lives at risk.”
Pearce, who authored SB1070 Arizona’s controversial immigration law, says that he continues to hear from ranchers and residents from the southern part of the state.
“They report to me their livestock and pets have their throats slit. They tell me about the thousands of dollars of property damage due to illegals crossing across the border. And they want to know why the federal government refuses to enforce the law and protect them from the daily barrage of threats,” Pearce said.
It’s been less than a year since beloved Arizona rancher Robert Krentz was murdered by an alleged illegal alien. There have been no arrests in that case and neighbors have been forced to change their daily lifestyle.
A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) immigration report confirmed the federal government’s inability to complete their mission. The report found that 15 percent of the 26 Border Patrol stations located in the southwestern region claim the Interior Department and the Agriculture Department have stopped them from catching illegal aliens crossing the U.S. border.
The GAO points out that nearly half of the U.S.-Mexico border is federally controlled and maintained by the Interior Department and Forest Service who are charged with upholding national environmental laws. It also was estimated that last year these federally controlled lands had more than 556,000 people illegally cross into America.
This report proves the BLM point that there is little activity in the Sonoran Desert National Monument as well as the Ironwood Forest where the signs have been placed. BLM’s Stevens said they received 25 new agents from Washington D.C. to help with the chronic problems in their desert, but these agents were only a temporary fix and now BLM will have to make do with 6-7 rangers to cover all Arizona’s public land.
While BLM may be patting themselves on the back with the decreased activity, an Arizona Secure Borders Intelligence group who monitors remote videos in the desert says the illegal activity has not stopped.
“In the past several days U.S. citizens have reported illegals carrying firearms at mile-marker 136, at mile-marker 142 custom-made Styrofoam coolers (that cartels use to transport heroin, cocaine and meth) were recovered-the owners escaped into the desert night, two backpacks loaded with marijuana were found on Freeman Road, a number of suspected illegal immigrants were picked up at Smith Road (two weeks ago residents reported multiple shots were fired in the same area) and on and on,” says Secure Borders Intelligence.
Another wrinkle for the generic BLM signs comes in the form of Snowbirds. These are the retirees who flock to Arizona to enjoy the mild winter weather and often quadruple the desert population. Area residents are concerned that these wintertime residents may not know about the dangers located in the southwest region of the state and are likely to stumble into a dangerous situation.
“Interstate 8 corridors have drawn a lot of attention this year. There have been at least 14 confirmed shootings involving illegal smugglers and American citizens. A grandfather and his grandson were dove hunting when a load of illegals came down a dirt road and shot at them. There have also been two cases near Vekol Road exit where two different Americans were stopped briefly, chased and shot at by three suspected illegals with AK-47s,” Secure Borders Intelligence reports.
Even the Department of Homeland Security has warned Pinal County Sheriff’s Office with a memo concerning the possibility of drug cartel assassins coming into the U.S. to protect their drug loads.
This portion of Arizona was also the scene where Pinal County Sheriff Deputy Louie Puroll was shot by “cartel rip crews” in April. Just a few weeks later two Mexican drug runners where shot and killed in the same location as Puroll neither case has resulted in any arrests.
There aren’t many naysayers when it comes to the violence plaguing the state and political members from both sides of the aisle in agreement that the plethora of undercover video footage confirms hundreds of illegal traffickers are walking across the U.S./Mexico border carrying drugs and firearms. (To view some of the footage visit secureborderintel.org)
With the 2010 election just seven days away many say the BLM is just pandering to the liberal base and voters on the fence that the violence in the area has been curtailed.
“I believe these signs are nothing more than political propaganda. I know the BLM office thinks their work has been successful and that they ‘haven’t seen any’ activity but this is because they patrol during the day and go home at night. So all the smugglers have to do is sit on their hills like they always do and wait until the last shift heads home for the day,” an area resident said.
While Secure Borders Intelligence acknowledges there has been an increase in BLM patrols, they claim the way they are going about their high-profile patrols is only helping the illegal traffic know where rangers are patrolling. “It is only diverting where the traffickers are bringing their cache of humans and illicit drugs.”
Arizona State Senator Pearce couldn’t agree more with the state’s inability to protect its residents. “It’s a lie, things have never been worse and the federal government only handcuffs law enforcement’s ability to get the bad guys.”