In 2001 I began teaching myself how to recognize mountain lion sign and how to document their presence. My cat education took place south of Tucson, AZ mostly on the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge where I was an intern.
The first lion I tracked had a portion of his territory in a roughly north-south wash that ran from the U.S./MX border to Arivaca Road. I was able to follow this cat for about a decade. I tracked him before immigration from across the southern border became such a political and divisive issue (i.e. pre-9/11). I tracked him when the immigrants were later funneled through this portion of his home, and I tracked him after a portion of the border wall was built on former Buenos Aires NWR property (this is how Trump’s administration plans to build the wall across portions of Texas – the first refuge to be destroyed will be Santa Ana NWR).
Because of this cat I was able to observe first hand the destruction to his home. The compaction of the soil as people and vehicles flooded the area. The erosion of the arroyo and accompanying lands because of that compaction. The amount of garbage and human feces that contaminated the land. The direct correlation of an increase in human and vehicle presence to the decrease in this lion’s presence along with all the other species that called this area home, including the birds of prey and songbirds.
“So what!” you may say. Who cares what happens to the flora and fauna of southern Arizona when our national security is at risk – we need a “big and beautiful wall” now! Drugs are pouring through the southern border and the wall is the only way to stop them! To such responses I would ask “how?”
How does the border wall stop drugs? At the border wall where I followed the lion loads of marijuana started to be cut into bread loaf shapes so they could fit through the four inch spaces of the wall’s bars after it was built in 2007. Currently the drug of choice is heroin – a lot less bulky than blocks of pot.
According to DHS most narcotics are seized at the international ports of entry not in the remote lands of the border. This Arizona Daily Star article has the data. The article also addresses the overlooked issue that President Trump called for more Border Patrol agents, but not custom officers – the people who actually staff the ports of entry. So if stopping drugs from entering the U.S. is important to Trump, his administration, and followers then funding the hiring of more custom officers seems like a more logical, cost effective, and less destructive way to address their drug concerns than a wall that has been proven ineffective for the past decade. And here’s a doozy also reported in the AZ Daily Star (article) that is never talked about: the majority of smugglers – of drugs and people- are U.S. and legal citizens of this country.
What about security and bad hombres? If the wall, all the technological gadgets, air, land, and sea machines, and Border Patrol agents haven’t worked so far how is a bigger and longer southern border wall going to work now? It has been proven with each upgrade in U.S. border security that human and drug smugglers adapt and still find ways to smuggle people and contraband into this country. And with all eyes on the southern border what is going on at the U.S-Canadian border?
Perhaps it is time to think outside the box? Perhaps U.S. citizens should demand that their representatives and the Dept. of Homeland Security look to crafting humane immigration and border security reform guidelines? Perhaps immigration and border security should be looked at and referenced separately instead of lumping the two together and describing them in “war” terms? Maybe then the progeny of the lion I tracked and the border communities and ecosystems in peril by fear and ineffective policies will have a chance.