Reader Participation Day: Has Arizona's Approach To Controlling Illegal Immigrants Led You To Cancel a Grand Canyon Trip?

The Grand Canyon, as viewed from Mohave Point. NPS photo.

Are you rethinking that trip to the Grand Canyon or Saguaro National Park due to the approach Arizona officials are taking towards illegal immigration?

Arizona's move to require police to check anyone's U.S. residency status if it might be in doubt is drawing quite a bit of criticism. Already there's some evidence that folks from outside Arizona who oppose the law are canceling trips to the Grand Canyon State.

Are you?


So, it's not illegal for an Arizona business owner to hire an illegal immigrant, but it is illegal for the illegal immigrant to live in the state of Arizona. Talk about a hypocrisy!

I often wonder if people that post on these blogs or spout off in public realize that opinions liberally spiced with personal insults work wonderfully for turning popular opinion against their cause. I come into this conversation being largely ambivalent of Arizona's actions - certainly not horrified by any aspect of them. Then I find posts by ypw that actually make me think, and I start wavering. Seconds later I read others that seem intent on causing insult to anyone that expresses support and I'm galvanized in my original thoughts. I usually look at these issues intellectually and with an open mind, but it's hard not to be influenced by the fray. It works both directions, interestingly enough. This issue has seen me swing to the right, while I entered the guns-in-the-parks debate on the right and have been completely swayed to the left (anti-gun) by the pro-gun posters here.

Just an observation. I wish every discussion was filled with nothing but posts like the ones y_p_w makes here.


I am from Arizona and my answer to which parks I will attend is this. I will go to any park that is at least 60 miles away from the border. I love Organ Pipe and would have loved to hike on some of the back trails. I no longer would feel safe there due to the heavy illegal drug and human smuggling.

It would be nice to visit the ghost towns of Dusguene, or the Huachuca Mtns. Again, another corridor now made unsafe due to illegal border crossings. Again, ten years ago I wouldn't have had a thought at all about the safety.

I am an avid hiker and my goal this year is to hike as many of the tallest peaks in AZ as possible. I considered going to the Chiracahuas because it has one of the highest peaks and is a beautiful area. I was there a week ago and drove down Turkey Creek Road. At the boundary of either the National Forest Land or possibly the National Monument, I was greeted by a huge sign warning that caution must be taken when entering the area due to the large volume of illegal human and drug smuggling. I know that a rancher was recently murdered in this area a day after he reported suspicious drug activity on his property. He was responding to an immigrant in distress at his cattle water tank when he was shot at. This made me take heed of the sign. As I was trying to find a place to turn around, I saw a beautiful ten foot waterfall filled with the spring run-off. But I couldn't stop...parked next to this area was an unmarked, well-used pickup truck next to a type of white van, the variety of which I've seen used to transfer a lot of Hispanics that appear to be illegal immigrants (some may call this xenophobia, but I call it sound judgement based on experience). It occurred to me this might be forest service vehicles. But I wasn't going to speculate.

I'm a registered Democrat in the state of Arizona who is not too fond of the current state legislature. I'm concerned about the wording of the bill, as expressed by many on the post. But to not understand the frustration that led to the passage of this bill is to be naive of a very real threat along our borders. 80% of illegal immigration occurs through Arizona.

I want my parks and national forests back that are funded by my tax dollars. No longer should they be rampant corridors of human/drug smuggling. I want to feel safe when I travel through this beautiful state. So my peak-bagging will be confined to central and northern AZ.

Thank you,

I'm not real fond of Russel Pierce, who sponsored the bill. But in his defense, he was also responsible for sponsoring the bill that does target employers. But that is very hard to enforce given that there are so many employers and illegal immigrants are dispersed throughout a myriad of small businesses. Also, id fraud is very prevalent in AZ.

Though many support the intent of the bill here in AZ (me included), I would like to see these legislators out of office for many other reasons. Pierce is in charge of which bills get brought to the state legislature and has proven an inability to be an honest broker. I don't think his intentions are pure and his single-mindedness about the immigration issue is born out of personal tragedy due to his own run-ins with illegal immigrants.

AZ Lisa et al.,

Is there a wave of violence inflicted upon park travelers by immigrants illegally crossing the border? There are a few anecdotes being invoking here, but is there any evidence of a crime spree imperiling travelers to Texas an AZ parks?


From what I've read, and my limited experiences (I was in Saguaro about two weeks ago and did some day hiking), the greatest threats seem to be in remote areas of the state and the parks. My wife and I spent about 4-5 hours in the Cactus Forest of Saguaro's Rincon District and the only concerns we had revolved around a rattlesnake.


It is your prerogative to determine whether my anecdotal evidence is valid or not. However, the sign on the national forest does convey that my fear is not unwarranted. Coming across any illegal activity can get you into trouble. Not so much by the illegal immigrants but the drug smugglers and coyotes that traffic in these regions. If you are from AZ, you will read the papers about how violence between drug/coyote smugglers, including kidnappings and torture occurs within Phoenix. This has spread onto innocent bystanders mistakenly recognized as their human bounty.

Are you aware that just across the border US citizens have been killed, including school teachers and federal employees? Do you think that the dangerous Mexican drug cartels that are plaguing its own government have any qualms about killing anyone over here? Are you aware that the drug cartel regularly puts out bounties on members of the Border Patrol and those caught narcing on them on our soil? The rancher that was murdered happened across "something he shouldn't have seen". Do you think I want to be caught in the same situation? I don't hike where the myriads of visitors hike. I hike in the back-country areas. They are no longer safe.

More anecdotal evidence: I was saved from a very bad excursion through the backroads of the Estrella Mtns near Phoenix by migrant workers about twenty years ago. I developed a great respect for Mexicans. They are very personable and hard-working people. But my experiences with recent immigrants have not been so pleasant. I have been harassed on the public transit system and actually followed home by some. Very scary. As I've walked down the street near my neighborhood, I have been accosted by many drivers that appear to be recent immigrants not aware that this is considered harassment in our society. My experiences may be anecdotal, but they are my own and I am conveying the frustrations that are leading to recent anti-immigrant sentiment and fear. It is my opinion that the most recent immigrants have more of a sense of entitlement, more aggressive, and less willingness to assimilate to our culture. Admittedly, my experiences may be "outliers" that have led to my current impressions.

Maybe you'll think I'm racist. That is fine. You haven't walked in my shoes or experienced what I have. I was punished if I said anything racist when I was young and I find it detestable. My observations are based on my own experience. I still give individuals the benefit of the doubt and treat them with respect.


Thanks, Lisa. I think you've importantly parsed what seems to have been otherwise blurred above: "Not so much by the illegal immigrants but the drug smugglers and coyotes that traffic in these regions."



Rincon and Saguaro are well above the areas you have to be concerned about. They are both adjacent to a major metropolitan area...Tucson. The areas I'm concerned about are adjacent to the border. The Chiricahuas are in such a remote area, jaguars have been spotted in the park. You should also be aware that there is still an unsolved murder of a park ranger in 1980.

As reported by the National Geographic in 2003, Arizona's Organ Pipe National Monument was the most dangerous in the country. It also attested to the cross-cut trails created by illegal activity and the trashing of the desert with strewn clothing and water bottles. As they reported:

"Rangers say it was only a matter of time before tragedy struck in one of the five national parks and monuments along the U.S.-Mexican border, where shoot-outs occur with alarming frequency."

Thank you,


My sincerest thanks to you for being an honest broker moderator! :-)
Happy was a beautiful season, but I too ran across a whopper rattlesnake this spring that scared the bajeebas out of me.

Justin -

The illegal immigration fuels the horrific activity of the drug smugglers and coyotes that prey on both the immigrants as well as Americans that get in their way. Of course I won't let American illicit drug users or employers of illegal labor off the hook either. But the coyotes and drug smugglers are the scum of the earth.



I assume you are talking about Paul Fugate when you mention an unsolved murder in Chiricahua NM. To my knowledge, neither the Cochise County Sheriff not the National Park Service definitivley concluded the Paul was the victim of a crime. See the Traveler story, "Where in the world is Paul Fugate", published in March of 2009.



Wow! That's cool. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I always wondered about that and I'll look into it.

However, the fact that National Park Rangers have a more dangerous job than FBI agents and that National Parks along the Mexican border are the most dangerous still stands.


AZ Lisa:
The illegal immigration fuels the horrific activity of the drug smugglers and coyotes that prey on both the immigrants as well as Americans that get in their way. Of course I won't let American illicit drug users or employers of illegal labor off the hook either. But the coyotes and drug smugglers are the scum of the earth.
I've got no argument that drug smugglers should somehow be protected. However - they're still going to do it if the profit motive is there. If they're smuggling drugs on a regular basis, getting deported is hardly going to be a deterrent. If they're simply picked up for immigration violations, they'll be right back in Mexico where they'll hook up with their employers and do it over again. What good is deportation for someone who by definition is illegally crossing the border repeatedly. The drug and human smuggling is going to happen. If there are increased rates of deportation, I would guess that it might even increase the rate of human trafficking as people try to get back into the US.

Human smuggling to the US frankly isn't just a concern only along the Mexico-US border. There are the infamous "Snakehead" criminal organizations, who bring in migrants (primarily from Fujian province) in China to the US in cargo ships. There was the infamous ship Golden Venture that ran aground in Queens, NY with several passengers drowning trying to flee to the shore and escape capture. A similar operation was detailed in the movie Lethal Weapon 4, with a group of illegal migrants found in a modular ship cargo container in the Port of Los Angeles. Illegal immigration is a huge deal in New York City's Chinatown as well as Chinese communities around the US.

y_p_w, I don't understand your point.

Back to the original point, I'm disheartened that I probably won't get to see the beautiful mountain islands in southern Arizona again. It is a grassy savanna with mesquites and cottonwoods dotting the hills and high mountains in the distance. ***SIGH****

AZ Lisa:
y_p_w, I don't understand your point.
Which one? I had two. The first was that drug and human smuggling isn't going to be alleviated with the simple deportation that might be accomplished by this statute. Anyone actually caught for drug/human smuggling could be facing serious jail time. Anyone who might be a human/drug smuggler but is only caught without the proper documents is probably just going to be deported to Mexico where the cycle can repeat.

The other one was simply to say that human smuggling isn't only a problem at Arizona's border with Mexico.

And CAPTCHA for today is "thing crackdown".

When a person is found to be illegal in this country, tell them they have a choice to return to their country or to be given full citizenship with the condition that they be drafted into one of the armed forces of this country for a certain amount of time. They'll be given a crash course on how to be a US citizen, educated, employed and we'll boost our defences at the same time.

I planned a trip to AZ & UT several months ago and my trip is for personal pleasure, not political reasons. The hotel owner and shop owners I will support along the way will be looking forward to my influx of out of state cash. I have no plans to cancel it.

I live in Upstate NY were you have to have a passport or an enhanced License to go to the Canadian side of the Falls -something we have been doing without anything my whole life.

I think all the people who are complaining about this law and how bad it is should consider visiting or even moving to AZ. I would say that unless you are there you have no idea how bad the problem might be. I’m sure the AZ government did not just pull this out of the air to see if they could anger people on the liberal east coast.

I am a Canadian snowbird and have a passport to get into the country. Does this mean I have to carry it with me at all times even when hiking? They don't give out visitor visas at the border and where we stay, we were asked at one of the numerous border checks if we had proof of our citizenship. We usually lock up our passports so they don't get stolen for identity theft reasons. What to do? Perhaps tatooing is the best answer--we could just show our numbers on our wrists. Perhaps then gas stations would then take our Canadian credit cards at the pay before you pump gas stations, too.

I am sure you have your reasons for cancelling your travel but I can not imagine why any tax-paying American citizen would protest the new legislation when it is protecting the people of Arizona and the millions of tax dollars they pay, many of which go to support ILLEGAL immigrants who are here taking full advantage of our taxpayer-sponsored government programs and their children are receiving free educations, etc. The ILLEGAL problem has become a national CRISIS and a strain on OUR government. Too many 'bleeding hearts' have looked the other way for too long. Those ILLEGALS need to be sent back to their own countries and if they can not come here LEGALLY, they should not be allowed to come here at ALL! The new legislation, in fact, makes me WANT to visit AZ; at least THAT state is taking action, something our whole country needs to do instead of wimping out. Way to go, Arizona!!!!

Hello people on this strand,


I understand your reticence I, too, am not very fond of drug smugglers and coyotes. However we are pretty sure that Ranger Paul Fugate was, indeed, killed by drug smugglers on Janyary 13, 1980. They were not illegals, however, but people from this side of the border. As you might suspect, I am not too crazy about firearms being legal in the National Parks.
I used to ride my horses all over the Chiricahuas in the 1970's with no concern but now it has become very dangerous in some places. Still, Cochise County has always been a dangerous area far before it was Cochise County and murder has always been common there. It pays to be circumspect when hiking there.


the law does nothing of the sort have you read it?

As an American Indian, I have to say that I find it absolutely STUNNING the number of Americans on this site who refer to the history of conquest and domination of Indian peoples and lands as "the proper legal channels." There was nothing legal or proper about it. Decolonize your own history before you start throwing handcuffs at people who scare you.

We would love to hear from you, about your trip to any of those Parks, so we can find out if maybe you are the first person to get shot.
Normal people would expect to use caution, since signs have been posted about potential dangers, and I think one is 80 miles inland from the border..
Would seem to me, the intelligent thing would be to not go there, to avoid the risk of getting involved in a situation you can't survive.
Sounds like you are pro Illegal invasion of the USA.

I'd like to continue to visit Arizona as often as possible for the rest of my life. If they need to protect their borders, I hope they use their laws wisely and don't misuse them. I carry a driver's license or other I.D. wherever I am and don't consider it an imposition. I'm a 79 year old Caucasian Grandma and I've been "frisked" at airports, visiting a young man in prison, and attending rock concerts. Not pleasant, but no big deal. Outrage is overrated.