Page 10


tentwere invited to whack a ball across the river in the cause of international golf. But the light-hearted zaniness ended when “the world changed”the mantra that George W. Bush and his administration kept chanting to capitalize on the terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Smith’s company and a majority of the contractors who swarmed into Lajitas had taken pains to ensure their employees in Paso Lajitas were properly documented by the I.N.S., but most workers came across in a rowboat. One Friday in May 2002, people were lined up buying provisions and cashing their checks at the Trading Post. Suddenly dust swirled from a low-flying helicopter, and people with dogs, guns, and black coveralls were running around in “Operation Green River Tours.” Border Patrol agents arrested 21 people for illegally entering the U.S., among them the 18-year-old youth who ferried people back and forth in a johnboat for two bucks a trip. He was enticed by a female agent into coming close enough to be swarmed and handcuffed. His boat was confiscated, and he sat in jail in El Paso for a month before he was deported to Mexico. Two weeks later the Border Patrol raided Lajitas again, arresting seven more people. “They were breaking the law,” Steven Smith said mildly in his restaurant one morning. “There’s not much you can say:” But to reach the Ojinaga-Presidio bridge, legal workers from Paso Lajitas now faced a fourhour trek over a bad dirt road, a line of people approaching U.S. officials at the bridge, then more than another hour’s drive back through the gorge on the Texas side. A few Mexican continued on page 54 12/3/04 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 51