One year ago on March 27, the son of Southern Arizona pioneers who lived and worked on land his family has ranched since territorial days was found murdered about 20 miles north of the international border.
Rob Krentz was a true son of the American West – a rugged individualist who worked hard and loved his country. Sadly, he was a victim of our nation’s failure to secure the border not far from his land.
Evidence suggests the crime was committed by a drug smuggler who fled to Mexico. This individual remains at large, and Arizona remains the main point for illegal drugs and immigrants entering this country.
Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, one of 10 members of Congress who represents a district on the U.S.-Mexico border, has cited the Krentz tragedy numerous times as an example of why we must strengthen law and order on our border.
As part of the congresswoman’s continued attention to border security, this week our office invited Congressman Ted Poe of Texas, a member of the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, to come to Southern Arizona.
Poe toured the border and met with ranchers – including Krentz’s widow – to discuss their concerns. High among them are ways to address a major concern to our rural communities: a lack of reliable communications in isolated areas.
Congressman Poe is working closely with Giffords’ office on legislation to allow governments and organizations to apply for funds to extend mobile communications services into the ranchlands along the border.
While smugglers have satellite phones that allow them to monitor Border Patrol movement, our law enforcement agencies are unable to communicate with each other effectively. In large areas they cannot get a radio or cell phone signal.
Ranchers are unable to alert law enforcement when they see illegal activity. As was tragically the case in the murder of Krentz, the lack of reliable signals creates a significant safety problem for people who live and work along the border.
Three days after Rob Krentz’s murder, Congresswoman Giffords wrote to President Obama, urging him to take “bold and immediate action to protect our citizens by deploying the National Guard to our southern border and by taking other forceful steps.”
When the president announced deployment of the Guard, Congresswoman Giffords applauded the decision, saying, “Arizonans know that more boots on the ground means a safer and more secure border.”
In less than six months, National Guard soldiers have helped seize more than seven tons of drugs, millions of dollars of illicit currency and apprehend 7,000 illegal immigrants, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
As we observe the anniversary of Krentz’s death, and with the scheduled end of the Guard’s deployment just three months away, we must recommit to securing the border – an undertaking the Guard did well.
Congresswoman Giffords long has advocated that we not cede any land along the border to the smuggling cartels and that the Border Patrol must intensify its presence and visibility at the border – not miles north of the border.
In the past six months, nearly 200 additional Border Patrol agents have been added to the force. Hiring of agents will continue under the emergency $600 million spending bill, which Congresswoman Giffords pushed hard to have approved last year. That bill allowed Homeland Security to add 1,000 Border Patrol agents, 250 Customs agents and surveillance technology to the southern border.
Congresswoman Giffords called that appropriation, “the beginning of an era when the federal government takes its solemn responsibility to secure our border seriously.”
We must honor the legacy of Rob Krentz by continuing to push for resources and effective strategies along the border – an undertaking that encompasses agents stationed close to the border, supported by the full range of surveillance, identification and communication technology.
As Congresswoman Giffords has so often said, the people of Arizona and all Americans deserve no less.
Pia Carusone is chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who represents Arizona’s 8th Congressional District. Contact Giffords’ office at http://www.giffords.house.gov or through Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/GabrielleGiffords.