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Old 03-31-2010, 03:52 PM
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Jeanfromfillmore Jeanfromfillmore is offline
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Border mood changing after murder
By Philip Franchine, Green Valley News
Published: Tuesday, March 30, 2010 8:34 PM MST
Friends, officials and border activists are begging the federal government for definitive action to address border violence after the murder Saturday of a beloved Cochise County rancher.

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat from Arizona’s 8th District, late Tuesday joined Gov. Jan Brewer and Sen. John McCain in calling for using the National Guard on the border, citing the difficulty that law enforcement agencies have in covering the vast spaces of Southern Arizona.

Retired rancher Robert Brown, 63, of Green Valley, who knew Robert Krentz and his family before leaving Cochise County in 1982, praised Krentz as a mentor to others and a warm, generous man who reached out to other ranchers, illegal border crossers and anybody who crossed his path.

Krentz, 58, was shot on his ranch Saturday, and officials say the shooter apparently was an illegal immigrant who escaped by walking 20 miles to the Mexican border.

Brown said times have changed drastically since he was a young man and his mother and aunt routinely fed small groups of illegal immigrants who crossed his ranch in hopes of seeking work. Now, paid smugglers herd groups of 30 to 50 across and heavily armed drug traffickers send smugglers across on foot.

Authorities said drug smugglers were arrested on the Krentz ranch Friday, but have not said that Krentz was killed in retaliation.

“I remember as a kid, the illegals came through there and we’d feed and help them just like Rob did,” Brown said. “But this is a different bunch of people — the drug smugglers and the smuggling of human beings.”

“This has changed big time. The U.S. needs to put the military on the border and stop it by any means possible,” Brown said. “The Border Patrol? I imagine they’re doing what they can do, but when you got people running drugs and armed to the hilt? That calls for drastic action as far as I’m concerned.”

Giffords spoke at a Border Patrol intelligence center dedication in Tucson on Tuesday, saying the new center may help in solving the rancher’s death.

She said in her request for National Guard help that law enforcement agencies have not communicated effectively with each other and noted that those crossing the border have become far more dangerous than in the past.

“We know that every time we implement a new border strategy, the smugglers find new ways to circumvent our strategies,” she said.

Giffords said the 262-mile long Tucson Sector is where about half of all drugs and humans are smuggled each year across the 2,000-mile border with Mexico. The Tucson Sector has increased its staffing from 1,100 to 3,200 agents since 1999, U.S. Border Patrol Chief and former Tucson Sector Chief David V. Aguilar said Tuesday.

Giffords has called for comprehensive immigration reform, which would include a temporary guest worker program.

Brown has changed his mind over the years on comprehensive reform and now opposes it, saying, “Mexico has every natural resource known to man. These people shouldn’t have to be coming to this country looking for work. Mexico is so corrupt that poor people don’t have a chance down there.”

Brown and many in Cochise County, including Sheriff Larry Dever, said the lack of protection for ranchers has been a tragedy waiting to happen for years and that federal officials have not acted to help. The Krentz ranch, covers 55 square miles.

Border activists Gary Meinert of Green Valley and the Rev. Randy Mayer of Sahuarita agreed that Krentz’ death was a tragedy and called for different measures to reduce border violence.

Meinert said the Border Patrol needs more resources, and said it has found that 17 to 20 percent of those apprehended in some areas have serious criminal records.

Mayer said adding resources without a guest worker program is not working, as the tripling of agents in the Tucson Sector has been accompanied by higher rates of violence.
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