BLM allows off-roaders to mass and ride at the border, attracting dangerous smugglers to drive across and blend in with the crowds
UPDATE, 1/24: Memorial service for Aguilar.
YUMA AZ -- As has been widely reported, US Border Patrol agent Luis Aguilar, 32, was killed last weekend in the Algodones (Imperial) Sand Dunes of southeastern California.
Using a dangerous tried and true technique, smugglers drove over the border in the dunes and mixed in with hundreds of weekend off-roaders on the US side.
"On weekends, when the dunes fill with riders, Mexican smugglers slip across the open border, trying to blend in with the other off-road vehicles. 'It's horrible, but not surprising,' said James R. Broxholme, a vendor of dune buggy parts. He said Border Patrol pursuits are a regular occurrence at the campground..." Los Angeles Times, 1/21/08
The US Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which (mis)manages the dunes, irresponsibly allows extreme and unlimited off-road vehicle use along the US-Mexico border in the dunes, which is within the congressionally-designated California Desert Conservation Area (CDCA).
Smugglers know they can easily cross the border here and blend in with other vehicles, making the Border Patrol's job very hard on the dunes.
There is a solution to deadly weak border security in the dunes, move recreational off-roading north of I-8, thus eliminating their interference with the Border Patrol.
Keeping recreational off-road vehicles north of I-8 would greatly help agents' ability to detect and safely stop incursions, and reduce smugglers crossing in the dunes due to the lack of crowd camo, enhancing border security.
Law enforcement officers in this area will tell you it is much easier to spot and apprehend smugglers when they don't have to compete with thousands of off-roaders who get in the way and help smugglers blend in.
"I worked the Buttercup and Midway areas, day shift, on several holiday weekends. It was common belief among officers that smugglers would use the confusion created by thousands of ORV recreationists to blend in and move their contraband... I worked with the Border Patrol near the frontier assisting them with surveillance. Creating a buffer between recreationists and the border makes sense," says Ed Patrovsky, a recently retired BLM Law Enforcement Ranger.
BLM should help the Border Patrol by keeping ORVs north of I-8, and if they won't then DHS should use its huge power to make it happen.
Off-roaders who claim to support border security should support staying out of this area so the Border Patrol can more safely do its job.
Unless this bad BLM policy is changed soon, it's only a matter of time before more will die due to weak border security in the south Algodones Dunes.