Congressman Steve King has just returned from a five-day trip to Arizona’s border with Mexico. “It was a real eye-opener,” King says. “One cannot get a feel for this without going down there and being in it.”
King has been advocating construction of a fence along the U.S./Mexico border, and King says the drug trade he witnessed just reaffirmed his belief that a fence is what it will take to stop the flood of immigrants crossing the border.
“This is my second trip down to the border but this is the one that I learned the most at and the one that really causes me to take a look at this and see it from a different perspective on how many people are coming across the border illegally and how many drugs are a part of that,” King says.
King was the only member of congress on this trip. He went with a “security detail” to meet with border patrol agents, some retired agents, and a group of fewer than two dozen Native Americans called the Shadow Wolves who are intercepting more drugs than the two-thousand border patrol agents in the area. When King was at the reservation one night, the Shadow Wolves caught a gang member with 180 pounds of marijuana hidden in his pick-up.
On another night, King happened upon the aftermath of a drug deal gone bad that led to a stabbing. The victim was brought over the border in a Mexican ambulance “that didn’t even have a bandage in it” according to King. The man was transferred to an air ambulance and flown to a hospital in Tucson. On Tuesday, King visited the injured man in the hospital and talked with the hospital’s administrators who told King they “lose about 14 million dollars a year” providing treatment to illegal immigrants.
King says a concrete fence must be built along the whole length of the U.S./Mexico border because his trip made him realize the number of border crossings are “far greater in number” than he thought, and the level of violence and the drug trade is much higher, too.
To those in his own Republican party who say the U.S. is not a country that builds walls but is a country that tears them down, King offers this response. “There is a 180 degree difference between a wall that’s built to keep people in, which the Berlin Wall was, and a wall that’s built to keep people out, which this would be,” King says. “It’s entirely moral to defend yourself from people who are pouring over your borders, that don’t have respect for our sovereignty and who are brining billions of dollars of drugs into the United States.”
There’s a national wildlife refuge in the area of Arizona King visited, and he says a fence worked there to protect the endangered “lesser long-nosed bat.” That species of bat lives in only four caves in the world, one of which illegal immigrants crossing the border in Arizona used as a hiding place. The bats left, according to King, so the National Park Service built a wrought-iron fence around the cave’s entrance. King says the winged creatures moved back in the cave once the illegal immigrants were kept out. “A fence does work,” King says. “It worked to keep the illegals out of the bat cave.”
King says he spent about two days traveling to and from Arizona and about three days along what he estimates was about 450 miles of border. King says he went in sort of “undercover” fashion so he’d get the real story, not the sanitized version delivered to members of congress who climb into helicopters and fly over the area.