ever since there has been a border. But the economic pressures pushing millions of Mexicans northward, toward white Americans who are filled with anxiety about becoming a minority in their own country, seem bigger than anything Madrid has studied before. A three-volume report published in 1993 makes Madrid’s fears about the connections between white paranoia and border militarization seem logical. In 1992, the Immigration and Naturalization Service commissioned Sandia Labs in Albuquerque to do a comprehensive study of the southwest border. Most of Sandia’s work involves nuclear weapons, but lately the defense labs, like the military itself, have been scrambling to find new “missions.” The report recommends stationing agents close together, building triple fences, and other tactics since adopted by the INS. In its introduction, the study defines U.S. adversaries on the border thusly: “Any versaries include drug smugglers, alien smugglers, illegal aliens and “commuter aliens.” The last categorywhich includes maids, gardeners, and vendors of avocadosare considered less dangerous than drug smugglers. Still, they pose “an economic threat to U.S. citizens”because of their “willingness to work for low pay.” couple of days before the shooting, Diana Valenzuela, who lives in a trailer near the Rio Grande, noticed Border Patrol agents racing up and down the dirt road to the river. She recalls thinking that “they’re going to catch somebody,” before she went back to watering her garden. Now she knows the marines must have already been working near the river, radioing reports to the Border Patrol agents. But no one in the town of Redford had seen them. The telephones starting ringing from house to house that Tuesday evening when Ezequiel Hernandez Jr. was shot. Valenzuela’s husband, Jesus, was one of the first townspeople at the scene of the shooting. Border Patrol agents and sheriff’s deputies were running everywhere. They were holding back Hernandez’s father, not letting him go to where his boy lay. After much confusion, a helicopter came and took the body away. The Border Patrol and the marines left and haven’t come back. The next time anybody in Redford saw them was on the TV news. U.S. Border Patrol director Doug Kruhm was in Marfa, describing the death as a tragedy, and explaining that the Border Patrol “is a member of the communities and families that live along the border.” Jesus Valenzuela went up to Marfa that day, to attend the press conference. He was barred at the door by armed guards. Diana Valenzuela doesn’t remember ever feeling that the Border Patrol agents moving through her community were like her friends or relatives; the agents would stop her and her family in Redford, and ask them where they were going. In return, residents kept their own intelligence network on the agents who worked there. “There was the Anglo one, and the Puerto Rican guy who was rude to everybody,” Valenzuela says, working her way down a roster of local agents. The Border Patrol didn’t try to win hearts and minds in Redford. Its agents didn’t go to the schools to let the kids pet the drug-sniffing dogs, like they do in El Paso. Valenzuela told her kids to be polite when they were stopped and questioned by Border Patrol agents, but mostly she steered clear of them, the way she had steered clear of her neighbor, Ruben Chapa, the drug smuggler. Chapa is the most notable drug trafficker in the town’s recent A JTF-6 motion detector left near the Polvo Crossing history. He moved to Redford from California, claiming he was in the restaurant business. Nobody believed him for long. He’s now serving thirty years in Leavenworth for running marijuana. His “jail widow,” a woman much younger than him, invites me into her house for a chat. I comment on the couple’s portrait hanging on the wallRuben Chapa has a white beard and slicked-back hair like Kenny Rogers. He went gray early, his wife says. That’s why people call him El Abuelothe grandfather. “He’s locked up,” she says in Spanish, with an indifferent shrug. “I go to Kansas to visit him once a year, but really, I don’t need him. I’ve got everything I need.” I look around at the cheap furniture and the concrete block floor and think that El Abueloas drug kingpins gomust have been a very minor player. Mrs. Chapa can’t believe how dumb the marines were to mistake Ezequiel for a drug smuggler. Everyone knew he was an innocent, the way everyone knew her husband wasn’t really in the restaurant business. “They could have asked anybody!” Jack McNamara has a similarly dim view of the military’s counter-drug operations. A retired marine who lives in Alpine, McNamara has become an expert on the drug economy in bor der counties, and is writing a book about one of the biggest drug dealers in Presidio County historyRick Thompson, the former sheriff. Thompson used to cross his drugs seventy miles north of Redford, in Candelariaa tiny town that sits on the river near where the two-lane blacktop road abruptly ends. While Thompson was moving drugs across the border, he led a state-funded task force that he kept busy searching for drugs in other placeslike Redford. JULY 18, 1997 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11
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