by Mike Harpold
April 16, 2005
Forty years and about fifty pounds ago I was one of those, by today's standards, handful of officers who patrolled the Mexican border. We roamed forty or more miles of open desert alone in a jeep, day and night, and carried nothing but a .38 caliber heavy-barrel revolver. Mossberg bolt-action rifles were available at the station, but almost never carried. We tracked lone or small groups of aliens and occasional smugglers, sometimes for two or three days before apprehending them. We were effective.
Today the situation is far different. The U.S. Border Patrol numbers more than 10,000 officers who patrol in air-conditioned SUV's, are equipped with night vision devices and carry an array of automatic weapons. Armed encounters, rare forty years ago, are a daily occurrence. The border is out of control.
In 1965, Congress terminated the Bracero program which had allowed southwestern farmers who did not employ illegal aliens, to contract for legal laborers from Mexico. No measures replaced that program; not a single additional officer was added to the ranks of the Border Patrol. Within three years apprehensions of illegal Mexican laborers along the border soared to over one million a year, and the border was overwhelmed. About the same time social changes in the U.S. fueled a huge demand for illegal drugs, and the border became a very dangerous place.
I agree with Mr. Lewis, that President Vicente Fox of Mexico needs to improve conditions in his country that cause his countrymen to move north seeking American jobs. But our own countrymen need to do far more to curb this country's insatiable demand for cheap illegal labor and illegal drugs. It's hard to get mad at the lone Mexican sneaking into the U.S. to get a job to support his family, but sympathy for that individual should not become a palliative that leads to perpetuating a system that in turn exploits both him and us.
While I concede Mr. Lewis' point about having to divert resources to ensure public safety, the Minuteman demonstration so far has not turned to vigilanteism, and I applaud the Minutemen for their successful effort to get public attention. It's far past the time when politicians should have acted. Last year, for the first time in ten years, when adjusted for inflation wages for the average American worker declined. We can't afford to continue exporting our jobs and at the same time importing our labor. It's time for Americans to get smart and get mad.
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