Guest Column

What I Saw on My Trip to the Southern Border

It is imperative we change course quickly. This will haunt us for decades to come.

By Bruce Gillespie

My wife Doreen and I recently returned from a tour of the southern border in the Douglas, Arizona area. Since we once lived there and managed a Registered Charolais ranch between Douglas and Bisbee, we wanted to see for ourselves the differences from when we were there. 

The evening we arrived in Douglas we stopped at a convenience store and by chance ran into three Border Patrol agents with three horses in a horse trailer just going out on patrol. We had a conversation on the part they play intervening with those illegally coming across and moving through the rough desert area filled with mesquite bushes. 

The next day we travelled with the Border Patrol along the border wall. The wall there was a combination of three different styles. When we were there in the ‘70s I don’t remember much of a wall at all. The main port in Douglas is very well staffed and maintained. We were able to visit on the many challenges they deal with. The wall across the desert at Douglas is partly a wall approximately 18 feet tall and then blends into a 27-foot steel wall with wire at the top that is very intimidating to view. Even then, the cartels have strategies to get people to our side of the wall with a lot of effort on their part and at great peril to the ones being trafficked. It is such a profitable business for the cartel they are willing to risk the lives and well-being of those they are bringing into our country.

The next day, Doreen and I were allowed to attend a round table discussion among 24 community members in the Cochise area and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Each member had five minutes to describe the effect the current border policies are having on the area, economy, schools, hospitals, law enforcement, public safety, etc. Kennedy took meticulous notes and asked detailed questions to clarify certain statements. We also had lunch together and watched presentations of real-life situations.  

We were treated to an evening with friends we met along the way. One was a Border Patrol agent, his wife a teacher in an elementary school. Here again we had enlightening conversations, and were invited to her school the next day, visiting with the vice superintendent and one of the principals. Having served as a school board member in the ‘90s, it was helpful to understand some of the dilemmas they face.  

We visited with a lady Doreen met in New Mexico. Her husband was killed along with his dog, by the cartel, as he was out checking on water for his cows. We also had a morning visit with a young rancher still trying to survive in the same area. 

I will conclude with how serious this is. It is imperative we change course quickly. This will haunt us for decades to come.  

Senator Bruce “Butch” Gillespie, R-Ethridge, represents Montana Senate District 9 in the Montana Legislature.