Now Craig is one of only a handful left in Campo. He sees his time on the border as a way of completing his term of service to the American people, cut short years ago by the loss of his eye.
“I believe in all my heart that we have the all-around better society here in the United States,” says Craig. “The idea that somebody born in Mexico City can have the birthright of someone born in Los Angeles or Anniston, Alabama, just isn’t right. It isn’t theirs. It’s ours.”
Craig recalls the day last summer when agent Robert Rosas was killed in the line of duty. Rosas had been parked about 50 yards from Craig’s truck on the evening of July 23, 2009. They had exchanged small talk and joked about Craig’s aggressive Chihuahua.
“Agent Rosas told me they were tracking four people,” Craig relates. “I walked back to my truck and, just out of the force of habit, scanned the border with my optical device. I saw two people standing just inside the wall. One pointed up at me. I instinctively shied away because I knew I was being silhouetted in the sunset. So I ducked down behind the truck and tried to reacquire them visually, but when I ducked, they ducked. I saw them for about a second and a half. I will always regret not sitting there for about five seconds and describing them to myself. That’s how you remember, you know. ‘Blue pants, red coat.’ But I walked up to Rosas’s truck and said, ‘I think I may have seen a couple of your guys down there.’ And Rosas said, ‘That’s okay. The scope truck’s got them.’ As he started away I jokingly asked him, ‘You sure you don’t want to take the attack Chihuahua with you?’ And he said, ‘Sure, throw it in the back of the truck. We’re going to catch these guys. I’ll come back and tell you about it.’ And that’s probably the last thing he said person-to-person to a human being. He drove off over the hill.”
This was at 8:40 p.m. Around 8:53, Craig heard four spaced gunshots followed by four fast shots. He made the call within two minutes.
“I told them, ‘I’m not sure if it’s on the American side or just over the border.’ A truck got down there about five minutes later. And then, you’ve never seen so many vehicles and helicopters out here in your life.… It was quickly discovered that Rosas’s gun was missing.”
The police began a manhunt for the person who had Rosas’s stolen pistol and soon found a suspect. The incident was the first on-duty slaying of a Border Patrol agent in ten years.
“[The police] came up with this fat, dreary guy with a big old beard [Ernesto Parra Valenzuela, 36],” says Craig. “A gangster. He looked like the drunk from The Andy Griffith Show. He’s holding a nine-millimeter Beretta in this supposed police lineup; you know, because everyone goes to a police lineup holding a gun. Most agents carry a Beretta, but Rosas had a different pistol. So they tried [to pin him as a suspect], but that one didn’t fly.
“Then they came up with this kid who the government of Mexico turned over on the condition that he couldn’t face capital punishment. The fact that he was 17 at the time of the killing gave him protection. They tried to say [the perpetrators] were trying to strong-arm rob agent Rosas. Now, [the perpetrators] didn’t have a weapon. Agent Rosas was in uniform, so he wasn’t going to have much money on him anyway. Being a Border Patrol agent, he was guaranteed to be less than 55 years old, in good shape, and armed. The kid claimed he was with some people, but he didn’t know who they were. If you are planning to rob an armed Border Patrol agent, you’re going to know the people with you. I know three or four of the true killers are still out there.”
In November, Christian Daniel Castro Alvarez pleaded guilty to murdering Rosas during an attempted robbery. He is expected to face life in prison.
But the official story that Rosas was engaged in a typical foot pursuit at the time of the shooting doesn’t ring true with Craig. “One of the revealing things about the Rosas killing that doesn’t make sense is that he didn’t close the door of his truck. Whenever an agent gets out to track somebody, they always close and lock the door. He must have responded to something disturbing or critical real fast. He wasn’t tracking anybody in the normal sense of the word.”
Such activity is in accord with much of what Craig has observed in his four and a half years on the border. “I’ve seen people who come to the border, stooge around, and I have photos of very similar-build people [as the ones spotted the day of the shooting] fooling around the border after the incident. I don’t know what they’re doing. Many people are out here doing things that don’t make any economic sense. These people may very well have come over to hijack an agent just to show that they could. It makes no economic sense, but it makes great political sense. It would show that they could terrorize the U.S. police the same way they terrorize the Mexican police. Last week there were five people who crossed over and went directly to agent Rosas’s memorial cross. They never did anything to make any money. They had a different motive. And I believe that motive is something political — minor-league guerilla incursions against the law.”
A few years ago, Craig spotted a group of about 15 people dressed in black with red bandannas. “Probably they weren’t real Zapatistas, but they were wannabe Zapatistas. And they weren’t making any money. They were entering the United States illegally in what amounts to revolutionary rebel uniforms. For practice? I don’t know. For thrills? I don’t know. But I believe there is a political motivation. And I think [the political motive] makes a lot more sense than the idea of trying to strong-arm rob an officer of the law. Maybe they are trying to get some sort of overreaction from the Border Patrol. The worst case of Border Patrol antagonism I’ve seen is when about 40 people from the Mennonite Church over there crossed the border and had a wedding. Sometimes people throw feces at the Border Patrol from across the fence. It’s not going to make you any money. It’s not classic criminal activity. Throwing rocks at an armed man? Robbing an armed man? Dressing like revolutionaries and crossing the border? It makes no sense economically. It’s a real assault on the border — trying to destabilize the border to the point where it doesn’t exist.