Immigration reform proposals resonate a bit differently along the Southern Arizona frontier than just about anywhere else.
That’s because border residents in Cochise County have seen it all – illegal immigrants, drug smuggling, even the homicide of a rancher believed to have died at the hands of smugglers.
Their reaction, then, to a push by eight U.S. senators and President Barack Obama for comprehensive immigration reform with border security atop the list is one of skepticism.
“Same line of speech they’ve been making for 20 years, and nothing ever changes,” Cochise County rancher Ed Ashurst said Monday evening after a congressional forum in the border town of Douglas. “The Border Patrol is not on the border, and it’s like it’s always somebody else’s fault.”
Ashurst was in the audience when U.S. Rep. Ron Barber, D-Ariz., and representatives of the Border Patrol and the Government Accountability Office discussed border security.
They presented information from a GAO report that showed a huge shift of federal resources toward the border in recent years but a lack of definition of just what a secure border is.
Sue Krentz, a rancher whose husband Robert was the victim of that border homicide in 2010 on their ranch, said she was reared to be kind to those coming across the line.
“They might be hungry. They might need water,” Krentz said. “We understand all that. In fact, we had one guy, he finally got his papers. He buys liquid seeds from us. He owns property up here by the hospital. His kids went to Cochise College.”
But jurisdictional issues and an overwhelmed Border Patrol can’t help- all the time, Krentz said.
“The sheriff’s department can’t help you if you have illegals on your property,” she said. “You have to call the Border Patrol. So if the Border Patrol is stressed, and the sheriff’s office can’t help you, what do you do?”
Under the Senate proposal now under consideration, border residents and officials in border states would have a say via a commission that will help the government determine if the border is becoming more secure.
“We, as American citizens and people in Arizona deserve to live safe on our own property and in our homes,” Krentz said.