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Former Border Patrol official expects Homeland visit to open eyes

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson. (AP Photo)

PHOENIX -- Former Border Patrol Commander Ron Colburn said that the Secretary of Homeland Security's visit to the border Wednesday will be eye-opening.

Jeh Johnson has been on the job less than a month and will get his first taste of the Arizona border with Mexico, with a trip to Douglas and Tucson.

Colburn has toured the border with former Homeland leaders Tom Ridge, Michael Chertoff and Janet Napolitano.

"When Chertoff visited Arizona he stepped off the helicopter after seeing the desert, his eyes were as big as saucers and he said he never knew the border area was this challenging and vast. I expect Jeh Johnson will feel the same way."

Colburn said Napolitano understood the complexity of the border better than most from Washington because of her time as Arizona governor. But he strongly disagreed with her position that the border is more secure than ever.

"The border has always been dangerous and it's more dangerous now than ever before," he said. "When she said it was safer I spoke with her and told her that you're from Arizona and you can't sell that message to people who live on farms and ranches on the border after rancher Rob Krentz was shot to death.

"When people don't believe they're safer, trying to sell them that notion from a podium will not sell that message. You have to feel their pain and tell them the job isn't finished. That's where Napolitano could have done a better job."

Colburn said Johnson needs to help bring better technology to secure the border and much more needs to be done to deal with the threat from violent Mexican drug cartels.

"Cartels will do whatever it takes to cash in. Trafficking drugs, people, cash and weapons. Even though border security is tighter, the cartels will do whatever it takes to keep their enterprise alive."

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About the Author


Position: Senior News Reporter. Started with KTAR July 4, 1999.

Favorite spots in Arizona: Pinetop-Lakeside, Alpine, Greer.

Have covered some of the biggest stories in Arizona including nine of the top 10 largest wildfires in state history. The Wallow Fire in 2011 became the largest fire in state history. Rodeo-Chediski Fire in June 2002, which is the second largest fire in Arizona. Covered the Yarnell Hill Tragedy in June 2013 that left 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots dead.

Favorite movies: True Grit, both 1969 John Wayne classic and the remake with Jeff Bridges and Lonesome Dove.

Sports Teams: Washington State University Cougars, Texas Longhorns, The University of Montana Grizzlies.

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