With the winter sun’s glare bouncing off his old red pickup, John Ladd drives slowly along the 10-foot wall of iron stakes and steel mesh that crosses his 14,000-acre cattle ranch, dividing his great-grandfather’s land from the Mexican desert but not always keeping intruders out.
“Here’s where the drug smugglers cut through the wall in January,” Ladd says, pointing to a large jagged square in the metal that has since been rewelded. “They use blowtorches and hydraulic grinders. They can get a truck through in minutes, and as soon as they reach the highway they’re gone.”
Ladd’s ranch in the southeastern corner of Arizona is dotted with cameras on stilts, and U.S. Border Patrol trucks cruise the range daily, scattering his Herefords and Angus. Beyond the wall, Mexican soldiers patrol in Humvees. Before it was erected in 2007, illegal migrants constantly camped in his bushes on their way north. These days, fewer make the attempt, but a more sophisticated and dangerous threat has replaced them.