Border Watch Part 3: Signs of Life

NOGALES, Ariz. – This week, the head of Homeland Security reported that arrests of people entering the U.S. illegally across the Mexican border plummeted last month to the lowest numbers they’ve seen in at least 17 years.

But there’s still those willing to try – and I saw signs of that myself during my time with the III% United Patriots down near Nogales.

Before the volunteer groups are sent to patrol the Coronado National Forest on their own, they’re first given a lay of the land.

It’s the first time many of them have even seen the border fence and for a lot of them, it didn’t live up to the hype.

“It’s a weird feeling,” said Gimli. “It’s just strange how you can just hop it. There’s nothing to it.”

It doesn’t take long to find signs that some have just done that. Within a few minutes we located a section of the fence that had been cut and signs that someone had been through.

The III% United Patriots spent 10 days trying to stop the flow of people and drugs from Mexico into the United States simply by maintaining a presence.

“Mine and Roughnecks job was to just observe certain areas and radio in whatever traffic we saw,” said Gimli.

It’s a cat and mouse game between the III% United Patriots and the Mexican Cartel.

“It’s nerve wracking,” said Crash. “But I think it’s no worse than any other day, in my opinion. You go to work, you go to the store, you don’t know what’s going to happen you don’t know if somebody is going to come in and rob the place and am I’m going to be here? Am I going to be a victim? Is it going to be a mass shooting?”

Over the years, people crossing the border have gotten really creative with covering up their tracks. A pair of padded slippers were found in the desert. People crossing the border slip them over their shoes so they don’t leave behind any footprints.

“We have done everything from recover packages of marijuana just left out in the fields to stopping runs but we’ve also found lost migrants here,” said .50 Cal.  “When we do that we’ve provided water, we’ve provided blankets, we still call Border Patrol but we’re not going to leave somebody just laying out here because they weren’t a citizen.”

Recently, the number of people crossing the border illegally dropped drastically and the III% United Patriots said they noticed a difference this operation.

John Kelly, head of Homeland Security, recently told a senate panel that in March fewer than 12,500 people were caught crossing the Mexican border illegally compared to more than 58,000 the month before. He credited President Donald Trump and some of the III% United Patriots agree.

“The previous three ops were extremely busy. We had drug runners all the time, illegal immigrants all the time, and now it’s really backed off since Trump got elected,” said Yota.

Ghost, who has been on 9 border ops in the area, said he noticed a lot of new towers since his last trip.

“The cool aspect of it is all up and down the fence money is being spent,” he said. “They’re putting up permanent listening stations with some very cool camera systems on them.”

But to beat the Cartel it takes creativity and dedication and just because the sun sets doesn’t mean the work stops. Crews are sent out for night patrols and hike through pitch black darkness.

During the night patrol, lots of signs of people having been through the area were found – including trash, packs and potentially directions.

Once all the teams make it to their pick up locations, they head back to camp but no one is ever left behind.

This story is part of an ongoing Border Patrol series. Coming up next: how local law enforcement feels about the III% United Patriots’ volunteer efforts.

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