Warning about smuggling routes for illegal aliens - AmericaNowNews.com

Warning about smuggling routes for illegal aliens

For Bobby Bunce, strapping on his sidearm is about as routine as getting out of bed in the morning.

"I carry it with me constantly," he says. "It's like putting your shoes on and your hat out here. It's part of everyday living."

Bunce lives close to Vekol Valley, one of the busiest drug corridors anywhere in the United States. Located about 80 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border, the valley encompasses a vast area between Pinal and Maricopa counties in Arizona. It is extremely dangerous – human smugglers and drug traffickers enter the United States here on foot through the Tohono O'Odham Nation, where many of them go undetected as they make their way up north.

Chief Deputy Steve Harry says, "This is a very opportunistic place. Everybody knows this trail that we're talking about [. . .] is a straight shot through the T.O. Reservation, all the way to the Mexican-American border."

In most cases, the goal is to make it to Interstate 8, where illegal immigrants will pick up a ride or drop off a load. But sometimes their ride isn't there. Rather than turning around, however, they can continue north into the more populated parts of Vekol Valley. What appears to be a radio tower of some kind serves as a sort of beacon for interlopers coming up Interstate 8, and Bunce says that illegal groups also use the area's distinctly flat Tabletop Mountain and Antelope Peak as points of reference because they are visible from 25 to 30 miles away.

Both landmarks feed directly into Vekol Valley – and nearly 40,000 people who live there.

"You never think it's going to happen in your own backyard, but it does," says Dallas McKenzie. She and her husband, Perry, are a Canadian couple who own a seasonal home in Vekol Valley. Whenever they get the chance, they love to hit the open rode on their Harley. But it's becoming an increasingly dangerous past-time.

"It's scary," she continues. "You never know what's going to go on. You know you don't feel safe out here. They're on the run. They could knock you over and take your machine…whatever has to be done."

So what is being done to protect Vekol Valley and its residents?

Since it's not directly on the border, the border patrol does not typically send resources to the area unless there is an arrest or immediate threat. Residents say that the Pinal County Sheriff's Department has become increasingly visible.

"In the last year, it has quadrupled out here," asserts Bunce.

But when you're talking about hundreds, perhaps even thousands of illegal entrants spilling into the corridor each night, even the most avid nature lovers have to think twice about visiting the Vekol Valley.

"It's a nice place to go," Bunce says. "I still go over there. But I don't go by myself – and I don't go unarmed."

Copyright 2011 America Now. All rights reserved.

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