Badlands: From Ground Zero of the Immigration Crisis Along the Mexican Border 

Thursday, Jun 3 2010

Page 9 of 9

Larry Dever long has endorsed moving troops to the border, as do the ranchers interviewed by New Times for this story.

But each of them in his and her own fashion warn against thinking that the Guard will be a magic cure to the multi-layered issue of illegal immigration.

"I'd like to know what the plan is when someone finally figures it out," Dever tells New Times drolly. "I'm sure someone in D.C. knows what they're doing, right?"

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Bud Strom, the old rancher and Army general, is skeptical that larger National Guard presence on the border is a positive move.

"Unless they are really savvy to the sophistication of the drug cartels, I don't think they'll be of immediate use," Strom says of the guardsmen. "They'd have to be trained to the methodology that drug smugglers are using down here, and it's not an overnight thing."

The Border Patrol's T.J. Bonner agrees: "This shouldn't be a case of, 'Okay, sleep tight, America, we've got a few thousand troops down there to save the day.

"I can see the Guard helping us with surveillance, with helping us maintain roads, but they don't have the training that we have.'

"Yes, we have seen a tremendous escalation of violence in the last year, especially on the Mexican side. But to just put them out there and say, 'Arrest these people,' is inviting disaster because they have very different training than us — very proactive, not reactive. They are going to have to be seriously retrained."

On the other hand, retired Judge Rich Winkler wants the U.S. military to deploy as many troops as necessary to the border, with permission to do whatever it takes to stem the flow of drugs and illegal aliens.

Hold on, aren't most ranchers deeply opposed to the federal government's butting into their lives, for instance telling them how to run their cattle?

Isn't it a bit much to count on the feds — the personification to many ranchers of all that is wrong with this country — to solve something that politicians and their apparatchiks have made worse over generations?

Standing beneath a windmill on his magnificent ranch on an April day so perfect that, for at least a moment or two, nothing seems to be wrong in the world, Rich Winkler chuckles.

"Well, I guess it all depends on whose ox is being gored," he says. "And, believe me, our ox out here is really being gored."

Reach the writer at paul.rubin@newtimes.com

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