OT: Border Patrol wears out welcome in Southern California

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Border Patrol wears out welcome in Southern California 1.10 p.m. ET (1822 GMT) December 3, 1999

Associated Press A Border Patrol vehicle crusies the border fence near Tierra Del Sol, Calif., Wednesday, Nov. 17, 1999. The Border Patrol has come under criticism from locals for its tactics in dealing with illegal immigration in the area. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi) By Ben Fox, Associated Press

TIERRA DEL SOL, Calif. (AP)  When Cole Dotson left home to join the Army, he left behind a sleepy backwater of ranches and rural hideaways along the U.S.-Mexico border, a place where his family and neighbors lived peacefully.

Three years later, he returned to a war zone.

Border Patrol agents sped down dirt roads at night with searchlights blazing. They trampled over fences to capture illegal immigrants hiding in the brush. Lifelong residents were stopped daily at checkpoints on outgoing roads, questioned about where they were going and why.

"It was night and day,'' said Dotson, 25. "There were so many Border Patrol agents and sheriff's deputies and illegals. It was like a totally different world.''

The agents were requested by residents to stem the tide of illegal immigrants crossing their property. They've since become the enemy, resulting in lawsuits, criminal charges and letter after letter to newspapers and politicians.

"They're a bunch of unsupervised people running wild,'' said Robert Harris, 80. He claims agents once ordered him out of his pickup and frisked him as he was driving along a dirt road near the ranch where he's lived his entire life.

Dotson's mother, Donna Tisdale, said border agents were needed after the federal immigration crackdown Operation Gatekeeper began in 1994 at the San Diego-Tijuana border, pushing migration into the eastern mountains and desert.

Now that the border is under control, Ms. Tisdale said, young agents eager to prove themselves are harassing many of the 6,500 residents living in this unincorporated region known as the Mountain Empire.

Two residents in the small town of Boulevard, for example, were prosecuted for interfering with federal agents after a series of confrontations. One was acquitted by a jury this summer and a trial is pending for the other, a 40-year-old woman facing two felonies for charging at six agents while on horseback.

The Ross family of nearby Pine Valley sued the Border Patrol, claiming an agent caused a 1996 car accident that put their 15-year-old son in a coma for two weeks. They later received a nearly $200,000 settlement, but Kathleen Ross, the boy's mother, remains convinced that speeding agents and checkpoints have made their town more dangerous, not less.

Some see the conflict, which is occurring in Southwestern towns all along the border, as the result of an influx of law enforcement officers into communities where residents came to escape the pressures of society.

"Small towns like these have been turned into military zones and these people feel embattled,'' said Michael Huspek, a professor at California State University at San Marcos who is writing a book about Operation Gatekeeper.

Border Patrol officials say the agency tries to work harmoniously with the residents, but they also note that the Mountain Empire is prime territory for drug and immigrant smuggling.

In the past four years, 46 area residents have been arrested for trafficking drugs; at least eight people this year for migrant smuggling,'' said Chuck Dierkop, who is in charge of the Border Patrol's local operations.

"We have an awful lot of people out here who have a historical connection to smugglers,'' Dierkop said.

The number of agents at his Campo station has grown since 1995 from 49 to 322, guarding 25 miles of border and arresting 331,362 illegal immigrants, he said.

Dotson, who grew up on a ranch within sight of the border, remembers when arrests were a fraction of current totals  a time when Mexican laborers would cross onto their property to work for the day and return home when finished.

He said people on both sides of the border lived in relative peace. The only physical division was a decrepit chain link fence. Now, it's a steel wall made of surplus Navy landing mats.

Dotson, who returned in 1995, initially resented the changes and sometimes wouldn't open his trunk for agents or answer their questions. Now he's resigned to living with the scrutiny.

"It sort of scares me,'' he said. "It's like we've given away our rights because we live by the border.''

-- Roland (nottelling@nowhere.com), December 03, 1999


This is BS.

There are so few Border Patrols as to make the border practically non- existent. The Border Patrol can't begin to police the border, even with the new fence. When they police the areas where most people cross, they are blamed for making the poor wet-backs (oh yeah, "(illegal) immigrants") cross in dangerous areas.

Most of the people "on the Southern California border" are hispanic. It is hard for the Border Patrol to tell which hispanics are from Mexico and which live in the area.

-- Anonymous999 (Anonymous999@Anonymous999.xxx), December 03, 1999.

OT? Yeah, probably, but what the hey. From sunny Sandy Eggo:

Anyone do the math on that arrest total? 331,000 arrests in about 5 years, which means they've collared more than 60,000 a year, or about 5,000 a month, in just a 25 mile stretch of border. How'd you like to live on an area where this was going on, month in and month out? Fun, eh?

Folks who don't live near the border have no clue how little help we get from the Federal government in addressing this FEDERAL problem. Heck, folks from up NoCal way don't even treat it as a serious problem.

I'm certain the Border Patrol is doing their best (and screwing up sometimes) in a bad situation. I just wish we could force Governor Davis, along with the head of the INS and a few high mucka-mucks in DC, to live near Campo for a year or so. I suspect we'd see much smarter immigration policies (balancing Mexican and US interests) in very short order.

-- Mac (sneak@lurk.hid), December 03, 1999.

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