Desert Invasion - U.S.

In Our Backyard - If only McCain and Kennedy lived on ranches in southern Arizona

By Leo W. Banks, National Review Online

I know how to kill the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill and the illusions that inspire it. We need every citizen to spend a day at John and Pat King's Anvil Ranch in southern Arizona. The experience would create an overnight revolution in America's view of this domestic crisis.

The Kings live every day with barking dogs, vandalism, guns at their bedside, trash on their land, and most tragically, human remains. The bodies of seven illegals were found on the 50,000-acre Anvil last year.

“Can you imagine dying of heat prostration out there?” says Pat King, a 62-year-old former nurse. “It has got to be the most awful thing. I wish the two countries would get together and stop this. In this whole 50-mile area, there is no law. It's a frontier.”

I visited the Anvil a week ago Sunday. The night before, the Minutemen had wrapped up a month-long watch at the ranch, and the nationwide demonstrations to demand rights for illegal immigrants would begin the next morning.

I've visited many Arizona ranches, and it always surprises me how quickly I can travel from Tucson to a combat zone. It takes 50 minutes to reach Anvil's headquarters in heavily-crossed Altar Valley, located to the southwest of the city. Even with that proximity, most people in Tucson—to say nothing of Maine or Washington, D.C.—live in blissful ignorance of the worsening situation here.

When Pat discusses the problem with friends, they say, “Don't you think you're exaggerating?” No one would ask that if they saw the 40 bicycles stacked against one of the Anvil's out-buildings. They're the favored means of transportation for drug smugglers, who pack their cargo onto saddlebags and pedal across our border, then abandon the bikes.

As for vandalism, Pat describes what they experience today as “wanton,”—water troughs filled with garbage, pipes cut, valves hammered to pieces. She jokes that they're thinking of putting a tetherball by the troughs to occupy the illegals so they aren't so destructive.

“You have to understand, we're under siege here,” she says. “Every day my son and husband check water and fences and redo the damage they've done. Not to get on with our work, but to undo the damage. Every. Day.”

Micaela McGibbon, Pat's daughter, took me on a ranch tour, and in one mile we crossed 30 smuggling trails. In a wash, we inspected sophisticated brush huts in which illegals rest during trips north.

But this nightmare comes right to the Kings' doorstep. Imagine living under permanent stakeout. The Kings do. They removed mesquite trees from around their house because illegals would hide underneath them and wait for the house to empty.

For nine years, the family has been unable to leave home unless someone stays to guard against burglars. They celebrate Christmas in shifts. On Christmas Eve, Pat's son and daughter-in-law go to Tucson to visit family, and when they return John and Pat go on Christmas morning.

Micaela can no longer do chores unless accompanied by her father or a brother, and taking her 4-year-old daughter out on horseback is forbidden. “We can't go anywhere without an escort,” Micaela says.

The Kings have complained to politicians and law enforcement for years. “They talk this rule of law stuff, but it doesn't mean a thing,” Pat says. “When you realize nothing's going to happen, you have to do self-protection.”

During their April watch, Minutemen spotted 1,501 illegals on the Anvil, and of these the Border Patrol arrested 500. But it turned into a circus. ACLU volunteers showed up every day to monitor and harass the Minutemen, at times sounding car horns and flashing lights to alert the illegals that the Border Patrol was coming.

This is the border crisis in microcosm—confused Americans rush to defend lawbreakers while ignoring, even demonizing, law-abiding citizens who suffer daily affronts to basic liberties on land their family has tended for 115 years.

The Anvil's location, 38 miles north of the border, means that by the time illegals arrive there, they've been walking for days and are sometimes in desperate shape.

Between May and August last year, cowboy Jason Cathcart found four sets of human remains. He came to dread spotting what looked like little white balls in the distance. Those “balls” turned out to be human skulls.

In March, a man arrived at the Anvil's front gate so distraught that he ran into the yard and tried to impale himself on a pitchfork. Later he took up a bale hook and used the pointed end to slash his throat.

“This is what life is like in the Altar Valley,” says Pat.

Certainly the McCain-Kennedy bill will do nothing to change life here. Pat likens the bill, with its plan for amnesty, a guest-worker program, and negligible enforcement, to swatting flies in your house with the doors and windows wide open.

Ask yourself: Would the Altar Valley be a war zone if McCain lived here? If Kennedy's Hyannis Port compound were magically transplanted to southern Arizona, how long do you think it'd be before he rewrote his bill? The first time Kennedy saw 30 illegals dashing across his property, he'd trip over his Guatemalan lawn guy rushing to the Senate floor to demand enforcement....

Pat thinks the street demonstrators—she calls them cowards—need to show their bravery by returning to Mexico and changing that country, not ours.

“We did that with the Boston Tea Party,” she says. “We were taxed without representation and we rose up and changed it. I think the students in the streets and these young ACLU individuals here are being used. When you talk to them you realize it's all emotion. There's no logic. They don't have a clue.”...

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