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By Steve Van Nattan

Since I live on the US - Mexican border and have learned about life here,
I figured I ought to talk to you about this animal epidemic and our chances of getting it in the USA.

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Answer: From Mexico. Once Mexico has Hoof and Mouth disease, or mad cow disease, it is absolutely inevitable that it will be brought into the USA by the following:

1. As many as 80,000 illegal aliens cross the US border undetected every month. They cross from Mexican ranch country into US ranch country. They will carry any disease in Mexico into the USA, and nothing short of the threat of a firing squad will stop them.

2. A number of large ranch operations along the US / Mexican border are owned by people who also lease land in Mexico and run cattle on those ranches. These ranchers are not taking precautions at this time, and they travel back and forth, and some of them move cattle from one nation to the other for economic purposes.

3. Tourists by the hundreds of thousands go back and forth across the border every month. Thousands of Mexicans shop in the US for things they cannot find in Mexico. The Maciladores program is a system of US companies locating just across the border and hiring Mexicans locally. The managers all live on the US side and commute daily to work. I personally cross the border about three times a year to buy prescription drugs, as do thousands of Americans living along the border. Hispanic Americans almost all have family "across the line," and many travel deep into Mexico to visit family and shop. We order unroasted coffee brought in by friends-- coffee from the south of Mexico! Thousands of illegal maids and day workers are employed in the US and cross daily back and forth. The Border Patrol looks the other way because these maids are part of a stable employment base along the border. There is an understanding at city hall you see. There are even towns on the US side where Mexican school children cross daily to go to US schools. Nothing can be done because of some weird technicality, and these towns are always in remote ranch country.

4. Several rivers run from Mexico into the USA. Two in our area are the San Pedro and the Santa Cruz, and the arroyo running from Nogales, Mexico into Nogales, Arizona is highly polluted. These rivers will bring any disease into the area, for many cattle are watered along these rivers on BOTH sides of the border. These river valleys are ideal for cattle raising.

5. Smuggling of crack and pot are exceptional ways to infect the US with disease, for the products being smuggled in are also raised in open country where cattle are grazed. This process will bring the disease deep into the USA as the Feds are losing the alleged war on drugs. Indeed, it has become well known that some Federal employees are participating in this plague. Little Rock Airport was a famous drop point during the tenure of Governor Bill Clinton in past years in Arkansas.

6. Millions of tons of vegetables are brought into the USA from farms deep in Mexico. This trade is absolutely essential if Americans and Canadians are going to eat vegetables all winter. The USDA inspects for plant disease, but I hear nothing about inspecting for animal diseases. There are not enough Federal employees to do this. Only a few random trucks are inspected daily at the various border crossing points. It is nothing for 700 Mexican tractor-trailers to be lined up on any winter morning at the Nogales, Arizona crossing.

7. Train traffic is not heavy between the US and Mexico, but there is no provision for checking for contamination for the trains which do pass back and forth. I sit and watch them as they come and go as I eat my lunch when I am piano tuning in Nogales, Arizona.

There is virtually no way this activity will be stopped. Those of us who live along the Mexican border have heard dozens of stories telling how the US Border Patrol is reined in so that a limited number of illegal Mexicans are allowed to pass through. Liberal Democrats dream of making subservient voters of these people.

George Bush also shows no interest in this problem. Many ranches in Dubya's home turf hire these illegals. Personally, I couldn't care about that since the Mexicans do menial labor and feed their babies back in Mexico, but they go back and forth on foot, which is a very good way to transmit Hoof and Mouth.

Let me illustrate how disease comes to the US from Mexico. Friends of ours went with a church group from Los Angeles to Mexico. They helped with food preparation as the group did work for Mexican churches. Some of the church people got sick, and our friends, who are famously compassionate, used their RV as an infirmary. Our friends then came by to visit us, but by the time they got to our home, they were very sick. They stayed for only about an hour, and they didn't come into our home. My wife unconsciously stood down wind as we visited outdoors.

I called a doctor friend, and he said that our friends should not leave for home until they had started to recover. In fear of passing the sickness to us, they left anyway. All six of our family, and my parents all got it, and it was terrible. I later learned that it was dengue fever. Who was to blame? That is a pointless question, for our friends and we were living our lives serving God, and God allowed this. So, it is folly to imagine that hoof and mouth will stop at the Mexican border, given the way we run back and forth.

So, Americans better be getting ready for a meat shortage. Our Ag Department is boasting of all its regulations, and they are the best in the world. That is fine, but the rest of the Federal Government does NOT have the stomach and wisdom to take precautions to control the border crossing chaos which is now endemic. You have been warned from 20 miles north of the border.

Action? The day you hear there is Hoof and Mouth in Mexico, you need to stock up on beef and pork. One idea, aside from filling the freezer, is to shop in the discount and thrift stores which carry food products. You may want to slaughter a beef or hog with a friend if you have freezer space. If you have animals of your own, do not cross into Mexico, and don't allow anyone onto your property who has just returned from Mexico. Panic is not in order. Rational response by storing up meat products which can be used, whether there is a crisis or not, is the best plan. Do NOT buy a carload of Vienna sausages. Buy a little bit of all sorts of meat products, and do NOT talk about what you are doing.

Solution: This sounds impossible I realize, but here goes.

As soon as Hoof and Mouth is found in Mexico, the border should be shut down. All tourism must stop both ways. All vegetables must be sprayed as they are loaded in Mexico or washed. Farms in Mexico which can be identified with contagion must be declared off limits for produce shipment to the US.

All trucks must be certified clean at the border, and they should drive through a disinfecting bath. Hundreds of additional USDA people need to be assigned to the Mexican border.

Those with jobs who cross legally every day must be disinfected EVERY time they cross.

All cattle along the border, 40 miles back into the USA, should be sold or sent to ranches north of the border. Compensation must be paid to ranchers for loss of income.

Drug smugglers (and their imployers) should be subject to hard labor for 20 years with no parole, if caught during the epidemic.

Illegal aliens must be severely punished for crossing anywhere but the border portals.

The rivers and arroyos which enter the US should be safe after 40 miles of northern flow IF no cattle are grazing along the rivers.

If these measures fail, a wall must be built from Tijuana to Brownsville at once, and the border closed tight as a drum-- no exceptions.

Not much chance, right? The US Feds have made it very clear that there will never be a quarantine over AIDS infection, nor any other disease for that matter. So, you can count on it-- the same dead heads will not have the fortitude to quarantine Mexico or Canada. I just wanted to make it clear that some of us know what it takes to survive-- The US Government cannot say they didn't have a clue. A bunch of us flatlanders down here on the border know what is happening.

We do have one thing working in our favor-- the prevailing wind is north to south along the border. If Hoof and Mouth enters Canada, we are doomed for the same reason.