TUCSON, Ariz. — "We're under siege," said rancher Ed Ashurst as he pointed to where he had tracked the killer of his friend and neighbor to the U.S.-Mexico border. "Five years ago, we didn't even bother to lock our doors. Now my wife and I carry firearms everywhere we go."
John Ladd is a fifth-generation cattle rancher in southern Cochise County, Ariz. The southern boundary of his family property is a 10-mile stretch of steel fence erected by the U.S. government. On the other side of the fence: Mexico. He told us, "Mexican drug cartels are running this part of America."
The poet Robert Frost posited that "good fences make good neighbors." From what our Fox News' "War Stories" team documented this week, that's not the case here in southern Arizona, where "the fence" on the U.S.-Mexico border remains unfinished. According to many levelheaded, beleaguered Americans here, the fence is little more than a "speed bump" for drug couriers, killers, human smugglers and lesser criminals flooding into our country.
Wednesday night, just hours after Barack and Michelle Obama and their doting supporters dined on Martha's Vineyard, our team, accompanied by members of the Cochise County sheriff's Border Interdiction Unit, walked up a quiet hilltop a few hundred yards north of the "fence." There we watched through night-vision devices as a group of individuals approached the Mexican side of the steel barrier, timing their movement with the passing of U.S. Border Patrol vehicles.
By the time we departed for another location two hours after dawn, the "jumpers" — all wearing backpacks — had yet to make it into the U.S. Heartened by what we had seen, I said to one of the deputies, "It looks as if the fence worked."
"Yeah," said one of our guides and well-armed protectors, "but they have spotters who saw us leave. They will try again. Maybe we'll get 'em, maybe not. But there are a lot more of them than there are of us. And they are better-armed than we are because the cartels have bigger budgets."
The numbers verify the claim. Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman — a multibillionaire who heads the Sinaloa cartel just across Arizona's border — commands an army of more than 11,000 "shooters" equipped with heavy machine guns, other automatic weapons, rocket-propelled grenades and armored vehicles. That's more than twice as many "troops" available to the U.S. Border Patrol, Arizona Department of Public Safety, Indian Affairs police and county sheriffs on Arizona's border.
Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu — more than 90 miles north of the border — explained the consequences: "Our deputies are outnumbered and outgunned. We're up against drug runners carrying AK-47s," the Soviet-era weapon used by al-Qaida terrorists and Taliban insurgents fighting U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
After one of his deputies was wounded by an AK-47-toting border crosser, Babeu requested funding to purchase AR-15 rifles for his department. The county turned him down for lack of funds. He told us, "My deputies shouldn't have to buy their own weapons to protect themselves and the public." A group of concerned citizens is soliciting donations to buy the rifles for them.
Larry Dever is the sheriff of Cochise County. At 6,000 square miles, it is larger than Connecticut. His jurisdiction is home to Tombstone, scene of the legendary 1881 shootout at the OK Corral. It also shares an 82-mile border with Mexico. Last year, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, more than 550,000 people were arrested trying to enter the U.S. illegally. Nearly half of them crossed the border in the "Tucson sector," which includes Cochise County. Yet Dever has fewer than 90 sworn deputies.
After Cochise County rancher Bob Krantz was murdered by an illegal border jumper March 27, the Obama administration promised to deploy 1,200 National Guard troops to "assist the U.S Border Patrol on the Mexican border." Arizona will get fewer than 550 of them — when they finally arrive. Not one cent of the $600 million appropriated by Congress this month for "border security" will go to any of the border states or sheriffs. The money all goes to federal agencies.
Instead of new weapons, reinforcements and help protecting our southern border, Arizona's sheriffs and Gov. Jan Brewer received something entirely different from the Obama administration: a federal lawsuit. Last month, a federal judge in Phoenix decided Arizona could not enforce certain provisions of a state law — SB 1070 — which allowed Arizona law enforcement officers to ascertain the citizenship of individuals stopped for legal infractions. Arizona filed its appeal in the case this week, while we were on the border.
That's not all that happened this week in what one of our hosts called "the northern edge of the new war zone." A mass grave containing the remains of more than 70 murdered men, women and children from Central America and South America was found in northeastern Mexico, less than 90 miles from the U.S. border. That brings the civilian murder toll in Mexico to more than 28,000 since 2006 — higher than Afghanistan. And last night, two were killed and three were wounded in a drug-related gunfight here in Tucson.
Meanwhile the president — who insinuated himself in a local police matter in Cambridge, Mass., and a zoning matter for a mosque in Manhattan — has been too busy to send condolences to Sue Krantz, the widow of an American murdered by a foreign criminal on U.S. soil.
Oliver North is the host of "War Stories" on Fox News Channel, the founder and honorary chairman of Freedom Alliance, and the author of "American Heroes." To find out more about Oliver North and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.