After watching the documentary Cartel Land, which tells two unique stories of how Mexican drug cartel activities are effecting the local area and how the local populace is fighting back. The first story is told from the Mexican perspective, from that of the auto-defensas civil defense group. The second is told from the American southern border perspective, from a group called Arizona Border Recon led by a hard charger named Tim “Nailer” Foley.
The security situation on our U.S.-Mexico border is dire. The drug cartels are waging an insurgency in these border towns, which is spilling over into the United States daily. The cartels are fighting each other as well as the authorities for control of the valuable drug corridors and “plazas” on the border. Along with the murders and other crime that drug trafficking brings, there is also the serious problem of human trafficking, where not only illegal aliens are entering this country, but also prospective terrorist from other countries like Syria, Iraq and Somalia. The Border Patrol along with Special Task Forces that include DEA, ATF, ICE, DPS and the Texas Rangers are simply outgunned and outmatched. In the minds of many, it’s up to the individual civilian to take charge of his own security and well-being, and through groups like Arizona Border Recon, that is happening.
Arizona Border Recon (AZBR) is a self-described NGO, or “Non-Government Organization”. They are not a militia, nor are they a vigilante group. They do not seek to replace the U.S. Border Patrol and always operate within the confines of the law, observing and reporting what they see. Their primary focus is obtaining intelligence through reconnaissance operations. AZBR’s manpower and equipment is generated partly from a volunteer and donation basis, with Tim filling in all the gaps that remain.
Nailer: Official numbers are cooked either up or down depending on how the numbers are going to be used. The Tucson sector has stayed pretty consistent at around 10,000 apprehensions a month for the past 5 years. But — and there’s always a ‘but’ — they’re classifying almost all caught as regular illegal aliens and hiding the number of Special Interest Aliens (SIA), a term used for nationalities from known terrorist countries. Or Cartel scouts, drug mules, gang bangers, sexual predators. It’s getting worse by the year.
FO: Why are civilian defense groups like AZBR so important to US Security along the border?
Nailer: I can’t speak for other groups, only for AZBR. We are instrumental in border security because some of us live on the border 24/7 and we can stay out in the field for days gathering [intelligence information] on cartel movements and scout locations, whereas Border Patrol is only out in the field for an 8 hr shift. We pass all [intelligence information] we gather to Border Patrol. So we’re basically an extra set of eyes and ears for them.
FO: As far as your involvement in border security, what tipped you over the edge? What made you want to get involved?
Nailer: I’ve been in construction most of my life and I saw the revolving door of illegals in the construction field. You’d see a guy on the job for a few months and then he was gone. I’d ask “Where did he go ?” The reply was always the same. “He got caught by E-verify”. A month later he’d be back on the job with a new Social Security number until he “got caught again.” That was the last straw for me. And here I am 5 years later still on the border.
Nailer: We’ve got trail cameras and we have pictures of Somalis on them. We have good intel of a large group of Muslim males 2 ½ miles south of us. It’s hard when you’re out in the field to determine nationality because Middle Eastern males look like Mexican males. The only way we have a clue is when a group is stopped and we instruct them in Spanish to do something and you got a couple of guys that take 15 – 30 seconds longer to do what is asked. So they don’t understand Spanish and are just reacting to what everyone else is doing. When we see this we separate them from the rest of the group and let BP know we might have SIA’s.
FO: What kind of activity have you seen from the cartels recently?
Nailer: The cartels are very good at what they do and you got to be very fluid to keep up with them. If they feel an area is burned, they shift operations 15 miles. They own the high ground in Arizona so they can see you coming from up to 20 miles off. They’re constantly changing tactics, sometimes using scouts on mountain tops and the next day using ground scouts. Their activity is consistent and non stop 24/7.
FO: Have you ever had a run-in with cartel members? Can you describe that in detail?
Nailer: We run into cartel members all the time, either scouts or mules. Mules aren’t that hard to deal with because they’ve been humping 40 lbs of dope for a few miles. If you catch them close to the line (border) they’ll drop and run. Scouts on the other hand are very elusive and a pain to get. To get scouts on the mountain tops you have to know where the blind spots are. The small mountains take about an hour to hump up and the larger ones take 2-3 hours to hump. But even going up the blind side is hit and miss since they have multiple locations on one mountain.
FO: Describe an average day in the life of the AZ Border Recon volunteer.
Nailer: When we do an op we get around 12 – 20 guys show up to help. Anyone who comes out to help us has filled out an application and had a background check done by us. We have strict [Rules of Engagement] & [Standard Operating Procedures] in place that must be followed. On a typical op we’ll break down into two man teams and they’re placed on an active dope trail or are assigned to go after scouts on mountain tops. It usually takes the scouts a couple of days to figure out where we are. Once they do, they try to flank us and they end up running into BP since we force them into less favorable terrain than they’d like to be in. The average op we help push around 20 + mules and 3 dozen or so illegals into BP.
FO: What’s been the response by U.S. Border Patrol? How do they react when they see you?
Nailer: Most of the line agents are very appreciative of us since we have a lot of intel and knowledge of the area. And we’ll let them know what’s going and where. We call BP dispatch every time we go out and let them know how long we’ll be out, what area we’ll be in and how many will be out. We give them grids of our location. If we move, we call and give them new grids. It took years for them to accept us being here. The higher-ups is another story. They think we’re trying to make them look bad and that’s not true. We’re just trying to help protect the country we love. But overall our relationship with them is pretty good.
FO: Have you ever had any positive interactions with CBP? Have any of them privately thanked you or told you that you were doing necessary work?
Nailer: All the time.
FO: What kind of surveillance systems have you seen on the border, both from the U.S. law enforcement and the cartels? Drones, cameras, etc?
Nailer: On our side we have every thing high-tech you could think of. Radar towers, mobile radar towers, ground sensors, helicopters, fixed wing, drones. Billions of dollars of high-tech crap. The cartels have only have 2 way radios, cell phones and maybe binoculars.
FO: What do you need to secure the border?
Nailer: That is a tough question, but the best answer I could give is, it’s not what we need, but what we can afford. Everything cost money so we do what we can with what we have. We have a lot of equipment that we’d like to upgrade and that takes funding. If people want to help they can either contact us or donate on our website. ArizonaBorderRecon.org
FO: What’s the future of your mission at AZBR? Where do you see AZBR in 5 years?
Nailer: I’d like to achieve multiple goals within 5 years. I’d like to bring down veterans with PTSD to a facility run by veterans to help them. Our government just dumps them in the cities and feeds them meds. There is no reason we should be loosing 22 a day. I have a vision where we can help them by offering acupuncture and massage therapy to get them off all the meds our government has them on. To have other veterans talking to them that have been through the same shit. Another goal is to have an animal rescue also on site. Animals are great therapy and I think both veterans and animals can help each other since they both know about being abandoned. We can help veterans trying to return to what they use to know a lot easier or if they like they can stay and help us secure the border. There is a beautiful dude ranch down here for sale, 1200 acres ready for 40 vets, staff and animals. The problem is as always, money. That is my vision. Will it happen? I’ll do my best.