Martha McSally: The border is not secure

2014-07-01T00:00:00Z Martha McSally: The border is not secureBy Martha McSally Special to the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Last week, border-area rancher Kelly Glenn Kimbro was driving alone near her family Malpai ranch east of Douglas, still mourning the sudden death of her amazing rancher mother, Wendy Glenn. In an email she sent to me, she described a terrifying experience of 13 men forming a barricade with their bodies across the road, forcing her to stop.

She explained how they immediately surrounded her truck, while several started to climb onto the running boards and into the back. That’s when she rolled down the window a few inches and was surprised to find not only did they speak English, but they were from India. They wanted to be taken to the police to turn themselves in. Despite not knowing their intentions, Kelly was cool under pressure.

Stories like Kelly’s occur all too frequently and prove again and again — our border is not secure, especially in rural areas. The American public was reminded of this fact recently by the influx of more than 50,000 unaccompanied minors who are easily crossing into the United States via Texas. This situation has created a humanitarian crisis, one that should have been foreseen and acted upon by federal officials.

But the porous border is not limited to Texas; it is right here in Southern Arizona, and those crossing illegally are not just children or adults seeking a better life. Transnational criminal cartels are trafficking drugs, weapons, money and innocent human beings into and through our community. This is a public-safety threat known all too well by the family of slain rancher Rob Krentz — as well as a national security threat.

On my latest trip to the border a few weeks ago, I stood at the edge of the San Pedro River, which is currently dry, and could have simply walked into Mexico, or vice versa, because the area lacks any barriers or fences.

I drove almost 20 miles along the border to the east, while my escorts — border resident and former Marine Bill Odle and rancher John Ladd — pointed out several areas where the fence or vehicle barriers were breached since our last visit. We inspected a whole stretch of border where, during the monsoon, floodgates (large enough to drive a truck through) are open 24/7 to accommodate the potential flow of water and debris. We came across a likely scout on the Mexican side, a man with a horse and a dog who was loading and unloading items, including a TV, from a large, deep hole less than 10 feet from the border.

Ranchers and border residents like John, Bill and Kelly have cooperated and sacrificed so much to help the federal government secure the border, but their patience is waning. They tell me that all of this might be tolerable if there were a decrease in the threat, but year after year it is more of the same. The barriers and fences act only as a speed bump to delay illegal activities, but crossings still occur with ease because monitoring is limited.

Dedicated men and women are serving in the Border Patrol in our community, but they are asked to execute a flawed strategy from their bosses in D.C. We should be focusing on intelligence-driven operations to direct efforts on known corridors of illegal activity. Those corridors will change, so we need to be nimble and responsive.

We also need to focus sensors, airborne assets, horse patrols and manpower — primarily at the border — to detect, monitor and intercept the illegal activity before it gets too far into the country.

I’ve seen firsthand how our unsecure border threatens our communities and poses a public safety concern. This is why we need a change in leadership, and why I am running to replace Ron Barber, who has proved to be ineffective when it comes to border security. There is too much at stake for our communities to allow our representatives to continue these failed policies.

Martha McSally, a retired Air Force colonel, was the first female fighter pilot to fly in combat and command a fighter squadron. She is a Republican running for Congress to represent Tucson and Cochise County. Contact her through

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