Editor’s note: This is part 2 of a series of stories from the Mexican border posted by our Sheriff, Bill Masters. To read part 1, just type “Mastering Security” into Search on the Home page.
I meet up with Sheriff Martin in Cortez late in the afternoon and we drive through the darkening New Mexico desert talking about old cases and adventures. Seems like there is almost no traffic late at night. As we get close to Las Cruces where the group is staying we pass through a Border Patrol check point. All north bound vehicles are required to stop but since we are south bound we have to go slowly through a series of bright lights that illuminates the inside of the car but no stopping or inspection is required.
The day we are briefed by Department of Homeland security officials, Border Patrol agents and our fellow New Mexico Sheriffs. One Sheriff has worked on the border for over 30 years. He tells me he was the only “Border Deputy” for his entire county when he first started working as a lawman in the early 1970s. The Sheriff with fondness recalls that he used to cross the border in his patrol car most everyday to have lunch with the Mexican Chief of Police in Puerto Palomas. “A good lunch would cost half what it would in Columbus (the New Mexico town a few miles north of the border). I knew all the Mexican police officers and we would work together on cases that crossed over the border. Now (due to the drug cartels) I don’t even know if there is a police officer left over there. But still most everyone in the area has relatives living on both sides of the border.”
The Sheriff goes on to tell us, incredibly to Sheriff Martin and myself, there are around 200 children who are US citizens living in Palomas (children born in the US to Mexican parents that were later deported), who cross the border everyday to go to school in Columbus and Deming, New Mexico. The School district sends a fleet of yellow buses down to the border crossing twice a day to transport them to and from the Deming schools.
Images: Border Patrol Agent pointing to a Mexican factory yards away from the US Border with only a vehicle barrier separating the two countries. Border Patrol and “Border Sheriffs” use ATVs, horses and helicopters to patrol the border areas.