Ranchers, lawmakers introduce border security bill
PHOENIX (KGUN9-TV) – Exactly ten months after rancher Robert Krentz was gunned down on his property, fellow ranchers in the Arizona Cattle Growers' Association have called on the federal government to tighten border security through a new bill introduced by Republican State Senator Sylvia Allen.
The bill, modeled on the association's 18-point Restore Our Border security plan, calls for thousands of additional National Guard troops, increased Border Patrol presence, and improved technology for the Tucson sector.
"Almost every week we're going to address the issue. Our border security is an absolute priority. We've got to secure the border before we can move forward with any issues concerning immigration," Allen said.
Patrick Bray, executive vice-president of the association, said many ranchers are surprised and dismayed by the fact that Krentz's death, along with the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry only months later, didn't compel the Obama Administration to be more proactive in tightening the border. He believes one purpose of the bill is to increase awareness and continue calling attention to the problems at the border, given the many issues with which Arizona contends.
"At this point in time, the severity of the issue remains, the safety of the issue remains and not much has been done," Bray told KGUN9 reporter Claire Doan. "[Ranchers] are starting to lose faith that the federal government will do something."
Many ranchers remain concerned about living and working near the border amidst what they say is a growing problem over violence as well as drug and human trafficking.
"In the last 15 years the amount of people, drugs, and criminals has increased. You just have to be aware of take of what's going on all the time. You can't take a break. You can't take anything for granted," said John Ladd, a rancher who lives about a mile from the border.
"We're out there by ourselves, living and working out there," said Dr. Gary Thrasher, a veterinarian and rancher who also lives near the border. "It's along way from having the sheriff come, and it's a one-hour drive for a response."
The ranchers agree that the foremost practical and effective solution would be more boots on the ground, despite the varied approaches the federal government has pursued to secure the border.
"We have been asking the federal government for a long time to straighten things out. They've put assets and spent tons of money, but they can't get organized to put people on the border in remote regions where nobody wants to patrol," Thrasher said.