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Posted May 19, 2010, 3:29 pm
Cochise County rancher Gary Thrasher will listen to Mexican president Felipe Calderón's address to a joint session of Congress on Thursday.
Thrasher, a large-animal veterinarian in Hereford, will join Rep. Gabrielle Giffords at the address in Washington, D.C., and at a reception with Calderón.
If he is able to speak with the Mexican president, Thrasher said he will press Calderón on border security.
"The U.S. can do more to stop the guns and money headed south and Mexico can do more to stop the illegal drugs and immigrants coming north," Thrasher said in a news release put out by Giffords' office.
"Border security should be important to the Mexican government too. Fewer guns smuggled across, preventing border incursions" are in Mexico's interest, Thrasher said while he waited for a flight in the Atlanta airport. "There needs to be more focus on that from the Mexican side."
"I live right on the border. We're not getting any help from that side, there's no help from this side, and ranchers are sitting ducks," he said.
Thrasher wants the Border Patrol to work closer to the border itself.
"There needs to be a reorganization of Border Patrol enforcement strategy. They operate as if the border were 50 miles deep," he said.
"They make all of their apprehensions quite a ways from the border."
"The Border Patrol needs to be on the border and they need to feel safe," Thrasher said. "They need to know they won't be shot at" from the Mexican side. "Mexico needs to help."
Thrasher said there are times he doesn't feel safe while he's working in rural areas.
"I spend a fourth of my time out on those ranches where Robert Krentz was killed, all alone," he said. "I've had people jump into the back of my truck, asking for rides, and had to force them out."
"We all expected it to happen someday, that it would be one of us," he said of Krentz's killing.
"In many ways, Krentz was the most innocent of all of us. But I expect more to happen before this gets sorted out."
"It's outrageously easy (to cross the border illegally) and just crazy. We've advertised to the world where our soft underbelly is. There are terrorists who know how easy it is to get across."
Thrasher helped Giffords organize a community meeting with ranchers in Apache, Ariz., after Krentz's death. He also participated in a conference call Giffords arranged between ranchers and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
"I've been down here since 1970-71," Thrasher said. "We've never had a politician take an interest (in border issues) like Gabrielle Giffords."
The Southern Arizona Democrat said she invited Thrasher to offer national leaders a local perspective on border issues.
"I want the president of Mexico to hear from an Arizonan who is directly impacted by the border security crisis confronting our state," said Giffords in a news release.
"Ranchers tell it like it is and Gary is the perfect person to tell President Calderón about life in a border community hit hard by illegal immigration and drug smuggling."
TucsonSentinel.com's original reporting and curation of border and immigration news is generously supported in part by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.