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Strange Times on The Border

Senate's 'Smoke and Mirror' Immigration Bill












John W. Slagle
August 13, 2006

WASHINGTON — Since 1972, the Shadow Wolves, a specially trained unit of American Indian federal agents who patrol 76 miles of the Arizona border in the Tohono O'odham nation, have been celebrated for their ability to track and stop drug smugglers.

The unit, which combines modern law-enforcement techniques with tracking skills handed down through generations, once stopped nearly 100,000 pounds of illegal drugs a year from being smuggled through the desert Indian reservation on the U.S.-Mexico border.

But things haven't been the same since 2003, when the unit was moved from the now-defunct U.S. Customs Service to the Border Patrol in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Under the Border Patrol, the Shadow Wolves say, they are confined to seven-mile patrol areas and haven't been able to do the in-depth investigations that made them so successful at catching smugglers.

"It's kind of like Border Patrol has kept the Shadow Wolves' hands tied to where they can't do the job they were put out here to do," said Marvin Eleando, who retired in 2004 partly out of frustration after 27 years with the Shadow Wolves. "It seems like they're just trying to discourage officers to retire or quit."

Created by Congress in 1972 to foster relations with the Tohono O'odham Nation and help it patrol its borders, the unit has shrunk from 22 agents to 16 since 2003, mostly because of retirements.

The Shadow Wolves began as a unit of about a dozen Tohono O'odham Indians who brought special tracking skills to the border enforcement effort. The tribe's desolate, cactus-strewn border with Mexico is heavily trafficked by drug and human smugglers.

After the 9/11 attacks, they turned their attention to protecting the border from terrorists.

In recent years, the unit helped train Eastern European customs officials in a U.S. effort to prevent the smuggling of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

The Shadow Wolves were moved to the Border Patrol after the Department of Homeland Security was created. Source: Complete article is available by Jennifer Talhelm ,The Associated Press Tucson, Arizona … Published: 08.02.2006

Perhaps one advantage in addressing the associated press article is the knowledge that was gained by experience through decades and knowing many “Shadow Wolves” personally. In years past the Narcotics seizures of large loads of marijuana and cocaine were common events on Tribal lands. The U.S. Customs Service had in place, newly formed Customs Patrol Officers from the Tohono Nation who knew the area and people.

These officers filled in the gaps between Ports of Entries and enforced Custom’s regulations and authority concerning contraband smuggled into the United States. The U.S. Border Patrol also had the same authority, but enforcement of Immigration laws was our primary mission. The Tohono O’odham Nation has 2.8 million acres and is roughly the size of the state of Connecticut. The border with Mexico is separated by a “cattle fence”, nothing more with numerous crossing points for 70 miles of wilderness west from the ‘Baboquivaries Mountain Range.

The early “Shadow Wolves” or Customs Patrol Officers were highly respected by all of us that “worked that vast area “ with a team of two to four Border Patrol Agents on “sign cutting duties” for illegal entries or narcotics “horse trains”. As agents of the Customs Service, the Tohono Officers always provided assistance when needed in any dangerous situation, night or day.

In 1978 Glen Miles, a Tohono Customs Patrol Officer was shot and killed on the Reservation near San Miguel by narcotics smugglers, his body was found two kilometers from the border, a sign of the times and violence on the Reservation. We tracked the “killers” who had fled back across the Mexican line and were transported south by vehicle.

As Marvin Eleando, retired Custom’s Officer , stated for the associated press article, “It’s like the Border Patrol has kept Shadow Wolves ’hands tied to where they can’t do the job they were put out to do”. I share his feelings and deepest respect always for his 27 years of service this nation. The U.S. Border Patrol rank and file members, field agents have been equally “hamstrung”, handcuffed from enforcing the Immigration laws by political intervention, year after year from interior enforcement to labor sanctions. The Department of Homeland Security in 2006 controls everything, et. all; Border Customs and Immigration enforcement with the U.S. Border Patrol “still trying to do a job” despite national politics which encourages illegal immigration in this nation. Directives come from DHS policies, not the U.S. Border Patrol.

Our Borders are still far from secure by any means from criminal organizations to terrorists using false documents at Ports of Entry or nationwide. I’m very proud to have served during a period of time, when U.S. Immigration Officers, Border Patrol had the authority to question any foreign national’s right to be or remain in the United States. By Congressional law, this authority was beyond borders, and included the Continental United States, Alaska, Guam and all foreign contiguous territories. U.S. Customs Officers were also not confined to any specific area.

The Tohono Nation has a very effective Tribal Police Agency under the Bureau of Indian Affairs and has arrested countless thousands of illegal aliens, and human traffickers on a yearly basis. The U.S. Customs “Shadow Wolves” were able to work freely in any section of the Reservation and beyond. Their directives, missions, and success came from within their own unit, not decisions made by “desk jockeys” in Washington, D.C.

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Desert Invasion-U.S. website provides “ photographs” and factual data on the Tohono O’dham Nation’s crime problems as well as areas east and west along the borders of Arizona from Cochise County to Organ Pipe National Park at Lukville, Arizona.

© 2006 John W. Slagle - All Rights Reserved

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John W. Slagle is a U.S. Navy Aviation Veteran, Commercial Pilot, Multi-Engines rated and was a Firefighter, Engineer Lt. prior to United States Border Patrol service spanning 30 years. Duties included Agent/Medic, Special Tracking and Rescue Unit, Intelligence Officer, Sector Pilot to Criminal Investigator.

Slagle spent 12 years in undercover operations nationwide as a Special Agent, Anti-Smuggling Operations involving organized human trafficking, narcotics, certified Master Gun Smith and second degree Nidan black belt Goshin Iaido.












Under the Border Patrol, the Shadow Wolves say, they are confined to seven-mile patrol areas and haven't been able to do the in-depth investigations that made them so successful at catching smugglers.