FEBRUARY 01, 2012
A little-known side of the heated Mexican border security issue is that government workers risk their lives to clean up the huge amounts of trash left by illegal immigrants in secluded desert areas with rigorous terrain.
The job is becoming increasingly difficult and dangerous as illegal aliens use more remote paths to avoid stepped up enforcement along the vast U.S.-Mexico border, according to testimony delivered recently by the director of Arizona’s Department of Environmental Quality. The state official, Henry Darwin, recently testified before an Arizona Senate committee in charge of border security and other related matters.
Each year illegal immigrants leave behind an estimated 2,000 tons of trash—including soiled diapers, plastic bottles and abandoned vehicles—in public Arizona lands along the border, Darwin said, and it’s becoming tougher to clean up the huge mess. “These are dangerous areas,” Darwin told the panel. “These are known areas of illegal immigration, illegal drug trafficking.”
Getting cleanup crews and equipment to these increasingly remote portions of the desert is, not only tough, but also hazardous. Camp sites set up by illegal immigrants and drug smugglers are the most difficult to clean up, Darwin said, and rain often washes trash into drainages before state workers have a chance to clean it up.
The problem is so severe that the state created a special web site dedicated to trash along Arizona’s 370-mile border with Mexico. It includes pictures of southern border areas covered with piles of waste as well as alarming statistics. For instance, the thousands of tons of trash discarded by illegal immigrants annually is having a detrimental environmental impact and affecting the area’s human health and the economic wellbeing.
Listed examples include strewn trash and piles, illegal trails and paths, erosion and watershed degradation, damaged infrastructure and property and loss of vegetation and wildlife. There is also lots of vandalism, graffiti and damage to historical and archaeological sites. Adding insult to injury, taxpayers pick up the exorbitant tab to clean it up. This so-called “landfill fee” ranges from $37 to $49 per ton in southern Arizona and that doesn’t even include costs for materials, equipment, labor and transportation.
For years American taxpayers have financed never-ending cleanup efforts along the southern border. That’s because millions of pounds of trash and human waste are left by illegal immigrants who cross through federal and state parks during their trek from Mexico into the U.S. A few years ago the federal government invested $63 million to clean up 25 million pounds of trash in the country’s most prized national forests, including Arizona’s Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge and California’s Cleveland National Forest.
The effort barely put a dent on the problem because federal officials say the trash piles up at a much faster rate than it can be cleaned up. This continues to “cause extraordinary damage to natural resources and facilities,” according to congressional testimony delivered a few years ago by a high-ranking U.S. Forest official.
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