Wall Street Journal
By Dan Frosch
March 15, 2017
DOUGLAS, Ariz.—Standing 6 feet tall, Kelly Glenn-Kimbro, a rancher and hunting guide, can see easily over the low-slung fence that separates her family’s 22,000-acre ranch from Mexico.
“I don’t care what they build. They’ll climb it or they’ll go under it,” Ms. Kimbro said while taking a break from hunting Javelina, an animal that resembles a wild boar. “No matter what they build on the border, it isn’t going to stop all traffic.”
Ranchers across Arizona’s 375-mile southern border have long called for more security to thwart the stream of drugs and people crossing their land. In President Donald Trump, many feel like they finally have a champion. But when it comes to the question of Mr. Trump’s promise to build a wall along the nearly 2,000-mile border with Mexico, Arizona ranchers have a somewhat unexpected answer: It’s complicated.
They favor an approach that takes into account the varied terrain and location of their land.
Ms. Kimbro says she wants more U.S. Border Patrol agents who periodically maneuver their SUV’s along the dirt road that skirts her four-mile property line with Mexico.
Some 50 miles west, fellow rancher John Ladd prefers the 18-foot tall, steel fencing that currently shields a small segment of his ranch near Naco, which he says is a favorite corridor for drug couriers who navigate through plumes of high desert grass and mesquite shrubs.
Dan Bell, who grazes his cattle around the rugged hills above Nogales, envisions a combination of more technology—like censors—manpower and fencing on the U.S. Forest Service land he leases.
“Access is the most important issue that we face—so we can get to the border and patrol the border,” said Mr. Bell, pointing to a hillside where a Border Patrol fence abruptly ends as the terrain steepens.
“Then, we can look at what works best,” he added, whether that is “technology in a certain area, or an actual physical barrier.”
All three ranchers supported Mr. Trump and said they hope he ultimately embraces a multifaceted approach to border security.
Most of Arizona’s border with Mexico already has some type of barrier. In some locations that might only be barbed wire, or the short, post-and-rail fence that snakes across some of Ms. Kimbro’s land.
Patrick Bray, executive vice president of the Arizona Cattle Growers Association, which represents 1,000 ranchers, praised the new administration for “taking border security seriously.”
He said in practical terms, however, ranchers foresee a mix of physical structures, additional Border Patrol officers and more technology like drones or helicopters.
“I don’t think we expect a wall to happen,” he said. “The wall in our mind will look different than what people assume.”
Arizona’s Republican Governor, Doug Ducey, toured the border here last month with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.
Mr. Ducey supports “some structural barriers” on the border, but also wants more resources and manpower, spokesman Daniel Scarpinato said. Following their trip, the Governor was left with the impression that the Department of Homeland Security is open to using a variety of methods, Mr. Scarpinato said.
“There does seem to be a recognition that there would probably be different solutions in different states and different communities,” said Mr. Scarpinato.
A spokeswoman for the DHS didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Some who live along the border say boosting security alone isn’t the answer. Business owners say a wall could damage commercial relationships with Mexico, while others worry about the humanitarian impact.
“I think the desire to build the wall is misguided. It doesn’t really address the fundamental reasons why people migrate,” said Rev. Sean Carroll, executive director of the Kino Border Initiative, a group that advocates for deportees and is based both in Nogales, Ariz. and Nogales, Mexico. “Those issues are economic need, family and separation and violence in the areas where they are living.”
Rev. Carroll said that while he understands the concerns of Arizona ranchers over safety, it would be a better use of resources to address the “root cause” of such issues rather than add agents and equipment to a border that is already heavily militarized.
Some Arizona ranchers acknowledge the situation has improved. They say they no longer see large groups of migrants crossing their land each day, but instead are on the lookout for small crews of drug smugglers. They attribute the change to beefed-up Border Patrol manpower, better surveillance technology, and the influence of Mexican cartels who experts say charge exorbitant fees for anyone wanting to cross the border.
A spokeswoman for the Border Patrol’s Tucson sector said newer Bollard-style fencing, which is fashioned with steel columns and was installed over the past six years, along with fixed towers that use cameras, have helped in the Nogales and Douglas areas.
Mr. Ladd said such improvements are welcome, but more is needed to protect his 16,000-acre ranch.
Different types of fencing already run the length of the 10-mile border he shares with Mexico, most of it 10- to 13-feet high and made of mesh. Mr. Ladd said he supported the idea of a wall, at least in some places.
The fourth-generation rancher says the barriers on his land haven’t stopped drug smugglers from carving out sections with power tools or driving straight through, though that has happened less frequently in recent years.
Recently, the Border Patrol began replacing a 2½ mile stretch of fencing on his land with an 18-foot-high Bollard fence, part of a larger Border Patrol project to replace some seven-and-a-half miles of older barriers in the area.
As construction crews rumbled down a dusty road on the edge of the ranch, the mountains of Sonora, Mexico seemingly just feet away, a Border Patrol agent scoured for footprints.
Mr. Ladd eyed the new fencing, noting that more agents were still needed on the actual border to man it. Taller barriers would help, he said, especially if they ran the entire length of his property, something he hopes final plans for a wall include.
“I would damn sure take it,” he said.
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