Desert Invasion - U.S.

Migrant traffic shuts nature area - Security concerns cited for Buenos Aires border land

By Corinne Purtill, Arizona Republic

For the second time, protected land on Arizona's border with Mexico has closed to the public because of security concerns surrounding illegal immigration.

Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge closed 3,500 acres earlier this month, officials there announced this week.

Violence against immigrants and law enforcement officers is increasing on the refuge, which shares a 5.5-mile border with Mexico. The Border Patrol, National Guard and federal law enforcement officers stationed there have stepped up efforts in response. A metal vehicle barrier on the border is under construction....

Originally established as a haven for the meek-mannered masked bobwhite quail, the 118,000-acre refuge has been ravaged by illegal-immigrant traffic in recent years.

More than 250,000 illegal immigrants entered the refuge in 2004 and 2005. Their footsteps and vehicles have cut more than 1,300 miles of trails through the native grassland, some of which could take more than a century to recover. The landscape is dotted with rusting, abandoned vehicles and tons of clothing and trash.

More than 85 percent of land along Arizona's border with Mexico is federal land. Buenos Aires is the second public space that has had to close because of problems with illegal immigration.

About one-third of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument remains closed to the public for security reasons since a park ranger was killed by a drug smuggler there in 2002...

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