We hiked two days inside the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, where the U.S. Border Patrol maintains a constant surveillance by helicopter, camera and drones.
We did not see any drones but were scrutinized on two occasions by a helicopter that hovered above our heads while they identified us as hikers, not those entering the country illegally from Mexico.
Officials report apprehending more than 70,000 people in Arizona last year, a drop of 25 percent from 2014. The seizure of narcotics fell slightly, with nearly a million pounds seized by border patrol agents in Arizona in 2015. Two national park rangers we met said they found drug smugglers much more often than migrants, whom they jokingly said more often headed south back to Mexico.
As we hiked, it was not hard to imagine the thousands of feet that have passed that way heading north, walking through steep gullies and rocky desert. Janis imagined how troubling it would be to could come across a body of a migrant and I could understand why activists are driven to walk into the desert to leave gallons of water to those who are passing through.
Evidence of the desert traffic is everywhere. We saw black gallon jugs strewn in the desert, old sweatshirts and cloth booties worn to cover up foot tracks. Jerome found a leather wallet with one man’s Mexican ID
. A rusty pink bicycle lay flat beneath a palo verde bush, awaiting a fleeing smuggler or migrant to take advantage of its offerings.
Listen as Johnny Cash & Lynn Anderson tear it up.
Where we are today.