Hooked: Battle at the Border, Part 3

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DOUGLAS, Ariz. (WAND)- At a barbecue for ranchers, neighbors and border patrol agents, rancher Ed Ashurst stepped away from the crowd to talk with our crew.

“My home has been burglarized multiple times,” Ashurst said. “They’ve stolen vehicles from me, firearms, cash, jewelry. I’ve seen it all.”

‘They’ are outlaws, smugglers who move drugs and people for sophisticated cartels in Mexico.

We're up against an intelligence network that's more sophisticated than anything the CIA or Army's got,” Ashurst said.

Philanthropist and Macon County Sheriff Howard Buffett owns land along the border in Arizona. He has studied smuggling for years, even capturing video and photos that appear to show smugglers moving through the land, sometimes wearing camouflage to hide their bodies and cloth-covered shoes to prevent footprints.

The one thing about the cartel, and the guys moving people across this border, and the drugs across this border, is they are the most flexible people, and they're very well financed,” Buffett said. “We’re fighting a very difficult battle down here on the border.”

Buffett arranged for our crew to tour the area by helicopter and by specialty vehicle to see the landscape smugglers rely upon.

It has literally hundreds of, I call them 'wash-outs,' ravines, whatever you want to call them, that could be a hundred feet deep,” Buffett said. “They run all the way across the border into Mexico. So, you can start in those and traverse across the border into the United States."

Since our visit to Arizona, Buffett has published a book on border security. In it, he argues that stemming the flow of drugs into the United States requires cooperation between the U.S. and Mexico, a “persistent presence” of people, technology and other resources at the border, and a reduction in demand for drugs in the United States.

During our travels in Arizona, he argued that, in some places, a solid wall would be counterproductive.

By building a solid wall, you can’t see what’s on the other side,” Buffett said. “So, you can let them stage on the other side. You cannot monitor their movements on the other side. Anything that is a solid wall is a mistake.”

"You can build a wall three hundred feet high and a hundred yards wide, (but) if you don't have boots on the ground at the wall, the wall isn't going to work,” Ashurst said. “If you have boots on the ground at the wall, you don't need the wall. It's that simple."

To view previous portions of this special report, click here or here.

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