On Patrol in a 2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor

Brian Konoske

Of course, every action has a counteraction. I say that I'd get some deer hooves and strap them to my feet. "People strap foam to their feet," Wilmot says. "But you can still track them." Jimmy tells a tale about a deputy who took off his boot and hopped from the fence off into the desert to prank the Border Patrol guys, who set off in pursuit of a one-legged illegal alien. That sounds sort of like an urban legend, but it's still a funny image.

We continue, ever deeper into the desert. The scrub brush and dunes give way to low mountains, saguaro cacti, and a sprawl of blooming flowers. It's quite beautiful. This would be a great place to go camping, except for the whole unexploded ordnance/bandits/heatstroke thing. We're so far out now that the Border Patrol trucks we encounter are strictly diesel, because there's nowhere to refuel. One Border Patrol Ford F-250 Power Stroke that rumbles past has remote-reservoir Fox Racing dampers on the front axle, but a Raptor it's not. As it heads off over the washboard, I see the cab shaking like an unbalanced washing machine -- which, according to the map, it'll be doing for quite some time. We're at least forty miles from the nearest road.

Out here, the fence has gaps, since it would've been impractical to build it over the craggy mountains. I walk to the end and peek around the corner, into Mexico. "I used to wonder why they bothered with a fence if you can walk around it," Jimmy says. "But it keeps out vehicles. And it funnels the people on foot into certain spots, so they're easy to track."

Maybe it's hard to avoid getting caught once you're on U.S. soil, but the act of getting across seems pretty easy -- back by the fields near the river, it's about a one-minute swim. So I'm perplexed by stories of how Mexicans pay thousands of dollars -- from $1000 to $3000, according to Wilmot -- for smugglers to get them across. "They're not paying to get into the U.S.," Wilmot says. "Because the smugglers usually just bring them to the other side of the river, rob them, then leave them to get arrested. What they're paying for is protection on the Mexican side, to cross in a particular guy's territory." Well, that doesn't sound like a great deal. "OTMs pay even more," he says. I ask what an OTM is. "'Other Than Mexican.' Chinese, South Americans, anyone else trying to get across the border."

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