Arizona Border Town Home to New Illegal Immigration Tactics

MCNEAL, Ariz. (KGUN9 –TV) – While the entire nation is talking about illegal immigration, the residents of McNeal, Arizona are impacted by the smuggling activity on a daily basis. McNeal is a community located less than thirty miles from the United States and Mexican border.

- video encodings still in process -

Illegal immigration is a big time problem in McNeal, and all three hundred residents (some say that number is inflated) seem to have a personal story about illegal immigrants and drug or human smugglers.

"Just last week, three of them showed up at my back gate. It was three young men...they were from Mexico City," shared Richard Humphries.

Stephanie Langham added, "We're dealing with drug wars, human trafficking wars...we're dealing with smuggling...all of this stuff!"

"We probably see 30-40 (illegal immigrants) a day between Davis Road and here!" said John Brya, adding, "At least the ones you can see!"

Ones you can see? KGUN9 On Your Side didn't know exactly what the local store owner meant. But, we started to figure it all out when McNeal residents Sean and Stephanie Langham took us for a little walk.

The couple met our KGUN9 reporter weeks prior at an anti-SB1070 protest in Tucson and invited us to see first hand what they say really goes on in their border town.

"In this area this is where the coyotes are, the drop vehicles ... This is where you see the beginning of the drug smuggling. This isn't just about people trying to find jobs," said S&S Auto owner Sean Langham.

A few steps further into the desert and under some desert brush we saw what everyone in town meant when they talked about the illegal immigrants and smugglers you could not see. That's because a lot hide in what appears to be a hole right in middle of the desert landscape.

But, the hole we were gaping into wasn't any natural hole, it was an man-made underground stash house. A stash house that wasn't discovered by local cops or Border Patrol.

"This was found by our children. That's who found it. I know there are a lot of mine shafts around here, but this is not a mine shaft," said Sean Langham.

Our guide scouted the stash house for any occupants finding only a lone red racer snake taking up residence down below.

"I've never seen anything like this. This underground stash house has its own running water, its own electric box over here, and even its own address, # 475," recounted KGUN9 reporter Joel Waldman.

In the back, next to the local reptile resident, were dirty buckets that we're told double as toilets. There were plenty of buckets for plenty of people who use it to hide out.

"Just two weeks ago, 70 illegal immigrants were found in this three room stash house. The people here in McNeal called Border and Customs Protection, and all 70 were detained. But this is something the people around here deal with on a daily basis," noted Waldman.

Back above ground Stephanie Langham wanted to ground us in reality, "Understand you're protesting for one reason, but we're protesting for another!"

This mother of four led us to another stash house, this one in plain sight, an abandoned house for sale. And, then, a moment of genuine concern, "Even now doing this interview, we don't know the repercussion!"

Fear and loathing reflects how people in McNeal are feeling these days, especially toward the federal government who they say has been lax in dealing with immigration issues. "Obama wouldn't learn a damn thing he doesn't already know if he came to the border, he doesn't care," said Humphries, a retired narcotics officer.

"Do you think it's a matter of time before there's another Robert Krentz (a local rancher murdered by a suspected illegal immigrant back on March 27th)?" KGUN9 asked. "I think it is only a matter of time. Yeah, I do," said Humphries.