It is still disconcerting, after many trips to the Southwest, to take the dog for a walk and see, up over the tree line, a tethered surveillance balloon. Often it is miles away but I still always am tempted to wave. Here’s one not far from here that was on the ground, probably because of forecast high winds.
We had a presentation this week by a young Border Patrol agent who told us that these came from duty in Iraq, complete with bullet holes, but were very effective, especially at night, for spotting people and drugs. They still are eerie – your binoculars catch them when you look for birds – they are just silent reminders of border issues.
So, during the question period I asked him why, with all the high tech gear (balloons, helps, drones, sensors) why there were still so many agents dragging tires along fence lines like this:
He told that “cutting sign” is still there most effective system because drug traffickers know how to use the blind spots – the washes and arroyos – and it also , by studying footprints in the smoothed-out dirt, gives the BP a good count of “got acrossers.”
The resources deployed here are unbelievable – and that’s just what we can see. I talked about this in a [post last year.](http://www.vtbirder.com/homeland-security/)
Of course, former Governor Perry, after a snit over Federal troops, is responsible for hundreds of State Troopers stationed here. In a forty mile drive, it is not uncommon to see 40 patrol cars, usually parked along the highway, sometimes stopping a vehicle. The troopers have to be bored to tears – it looks like they are sitting in their air-conditioned vehicles playing games on their cell phones. Texans, white ones, think it’s a great program from side conversations that I hear but stay out of.
So, two weeks ago, some friend were down on the river at Salenino, a birding hotspot, when they look about a half mile upriver to see six men with bales of marijuana strapped to their backs, wading the river. John, our neighbor, aimed his big camera at them and got some shots that were amazing. Most of us thought it was rather unwise – it’s not the mules you worry about – it’s the guys on each bank running the operation.
We learned yesterday that unlike lower in the Valley where crystal meth is coming across in all sorts of containers and vehicles, here the main drug smuggled is still marijuana. This is the #1 district for the Border Patrol for narcotics in the country. Last year they seized 393,000 pounds.
It does make one wonder about the cost-benefit of going after a drug that is like alcohol in the Prohibition days. But as our young speaker told us with a grin: “Drugs and illegal immigrants: that’s my job security.”