Border security: Government under group's aerial scrutinyBy Ted Morris/WICK NEWS SERVICE
TUCSON - Eagle eyes are watching the border, but not for Mexicans crossing illegally.
Instead those eyes in the sky are watching the U.S. government's activities toward securing the border. President Bush's program, like his predecessors', is failing miserably and coming up short on promises, says the American Border Patrol.
"Thousands of footprints, hundreds and hundreds of tire tracks, crossing into the United States!" shouted Glenn Spencer, describing a notorious drug corridor near Sasabe during a news conference held Wednesday in El Presidio Plaza Park in downtown Tucson.
"Where's the beef?" demanded Spencer, who is the president of American Border Patrol, a nonprofit organization he founded in Sierra Vista five years ago. That's an old adage that calls someone on a promise.
Spencer's group has launched Operation BEEF (Border Enforcement Evaluation First). This involves Spencer piloting a Cessna TU206 airplane from El Paso, Texas, to San Diego every month, 500 feet off the ground, while videotaping every inch of the border with high-definition cameras. Operation BEEF is policing the U.S. government's progress toward a promised fence on the border.
American Border Patrol is not the U.S. Border Patrol, which is an arm of the government charged with protecting the border and whose front-line troops are respected by the American Border Patrol. It's the suits in Washington, D.C., who are not appreciated by this group.
"We're just a two-bit operation," Spencer said.
The 501(c)(3) organization says it currently has about 15,000 active member-donors and joins with other anti-illegal-immigration organizations through an umbrella group, Patriots Border Alliance.
The purpose of Wednesday's conference was to release results of American Border Patrol's recent high-tech, aerial survey of the U.S.-Mexico border "to bring truth about the border to the American people," Spencer said as his group handed out DVDs containing detailed images of border installations.
American Border Patrol claims the bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., particularly Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff, have deceived the American public by promising to have 150 miles of fence constructed along critical areas of the border by the end of September, yet currently about 17 miles are completed, according to private group's documented aerial observations. Those 17 miles include sections that are still under construction.
What little fence is there is a wimpy one, Spencer said, claming it is not up to standards set by the yet-unfunded Secure Fence Act of 2006, which was overwhelmingly passed by Congress. Spencer said it is a single-layer fence, easily breached, unlike the double-layer type required under the law signed by President Bush.
American Border Patrol is critical of other government efforts.
"We think the vehicle barriers that they're putting up are pretty ineffective," Spencer said. His group claims that bollards (thick posts) are not being filled with concrete and are thus easily run over.
American Border Patrol is keen on a border fence. Group members say it will help the U.S. Border Patrol more easily keep illegal immigrants from running into dangerous areas of the desert, and some suggest it will be good for wildlife because it will reduce trash that is left behind by crossers.
Years ago in San Diego, a woman named Muriel Watson organized a protest that involved hundreds of gathered motorists pointing their automobiles south and turning on their headlights at 9 p.m. Operation Light Up the Border grew to as many as 1,500 vehicles, and it has been credited with bringing a border fence to San Diego.
"And thus was born the idea of American Border Patrol," Spencer said.
The group operates a homemade "Border Hawk" UAV in a 15-mile radius. It uses a "Gulley Watcher" mobile thermal imaging camera system, set up by group's technical wizard, Michael King. King and Spencer live at the Allen C. Nelson Center on a border-touching ranch in Palominas.
A former U.S. Army sniper, King brings various skills and disciplines to the American Border Patrol, including being a HAM radio operator and computer software author.
He also has strong feelings toward those who claim the American Border Patrol is a racist organization.
After the conference, a spokesman for the U.S. Customs as Border Protection, Brian Levin, did not immediately return a phone call from the Wick News Service.
Mike Scioli, a spokesman at the U.S. Border Patrol's Tucson Sector headquarters in Tucson, said he could not comment specifically about the American Border Patrol because he does not know much about them.
"Any help we can get from people calling our 800 number ... we're all for that," Scioli said. "We're more than happy to have citizens call in and help us in the fight."
Scioli added, "The more eyes in the desert, the better."
On the net:
€ American Border Patrol: americanborderpatrol.com
€ U.S. Border Patrol: (877) 872-7435