Arizona’s border with Mexico is desert, wetlands, jagged mountains and cities that depend on their neighbor to the south.
It has rivers that flow north, an Indian reservation the size of Connecticut and some of the nation’s largest and most remote wilderness areas.
About 70 percent of the state’s border is known as the Tucson Sector, which includes seven mountain ranges that reach thousands of feet high.
As Tucson Sector Border Patrol Chief Paul Beeson sees it, “Two hundred sixty-two miles might not sound like a lot, but when you get out there and you see the ruggedness, the mountain ranges, the dense brush, everything that goes on with this place — it is not a place without challenges.”
Apprehensions in the sector are the lowest they’ve been since 1991, but how many get through is unknown. Increased enforcement in the urban areas pushed traffic further into the punishing desert where there’s less fencing and the terrain itself is the international barrier.
As more fencing, agents and technology made it harder to smuggle through here, the lines dividing the human and drug trafficking businesses blurred. The Sinaloa Cartel, one of the world’s most notorious drug-trafficking rings, took control.
Residents of remote areas don’t see large groups trekking through anymore, nor loaded cars flying by. Now people cross a few at a time, often dressed in camouflage and wearing carpet booties to hide their tracks.