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Can welcoming bags of grain solve the U.S.-Mexico border dilemma?

Mi suegra vive en Douglas ... so we go down to visit her whenever we can.

As mothers-in-law go, she's about average. To be sure, way back when, she wasn't all that fired up about her precious daughter marrying a gavacho. (I've always wondered why that "¡Ask a Mexican!" guy spells gabacho with a "b," because every time I've heard it—and I've heard it plenty!—it's damn sure pronounced with a "v.") She appears to like at least one of the two grandchildren we gave her, but as for the marriage itself, she's reserving judgment. After all, it's only been 32 years.

When I was down in Douglas a couple of weeks ago, the town was abuzz over two things: Their softball team won the district championship for the first time ever, beating Benson in the finals. In the semifinal game, Douglas got the victory when both Rio Rico coaches got kicked out of the game by the umpire. The rules state that at least one coach has to be in the dugout at all times. (I've seen a whole lot of games where the team would probably play better without their coaches, but rules are rules.)

There's a nice picture of the team in the Douglas Dispatch, but one kid's first name is listed as "Diva." I hope it is short for something or a nickname. Otherwise, who does that to a kid? Isn't that the equivalent of naming a boy Jackass Johanssen?

Anyway, the other big thing in Douglas when I was there was a contentious meeting of the Douglas City Council over Mayor Dr. Michael Gomez's safe-border resolution. It reads: "A RESOLUTION OF THE MAYOR AND COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF DOUGLAS, COCHISE COUNTY, ARIZONA, URGING AND VOICING BORDER SECURITY CONCERNS TO THE VARIOUS UNITED STATES AND STATE OF ARIZONA AGENCIES TASKED WITH BORDER AND HOMELAND SECURITY AND TO REQUEST ADDITIONAL PHYSICAL AND HUMAN RESOURCES AS REQUIRED TO SECURE ARIZONA'S BORDERS AND PROTECT ITS PUBLIC SAFETY PERSONNEL AND CITIZENS FROM CRIMINAL ACTIVITIES."

It seems pretty straightforward. The syntax is bad, but that's to be expected when something is written in all-caps, which is like keyboard shouting. You have to figure that with local rancher Rob Krentz getting shot to death on his own land, and the town being butt-up next to Agua Prieta, Sonora (which is to Douglas what Nogales is to Nogales), this thing would pass the mayor and council of seven by a vote of 13-0 or so. But such is not the case.

When the mayor first brought it up, it got only two votes. So he brought it up again. The folks in Sierra Vista are waiting for Douglas to pass it so the two communities can jointly propose it to the League of Arizona Cities and Towns. Thirty-two people got up to speak at the meeting, and 26 of them were in favor of the resolution, some of them wildly so. But when it came time to vote, it again got only two votes.

One councilman, Ivan Huish, was absent. I played baseball in college with a guy named Ivan Huish. I sure hope the councilman is his dad, because the guy in the picture looks oooold.

Council member Margaret Morales said that she feels safe in Douglas and doesn't want the "negative media coverage" that would come from passage of the resolution. Councilmen Rudy Quinonez and Bob Fernandez also voted no, as did Mitch Lindemann, who said that his constituents had called him earlier in the day and told him to vote against it. Of course, he didn't say how many of his constituents called. Maybe it was all of them.

Rob Krentz's widow was there, as were a whole lot of pissed-off people. Many were stunned that the council hadn't passed the thing the first time, especially since it's just a non-binding resolution.

Without making (too much) light of the whole thing, some of the people who spoke painted a grim picture of life in the area surrounding Douglas. One guy said that his wife had been held hostage by Mexican gang members and that the Border Patrol had told him that the trash left behind by people who enter illegally is filled with diseases. A woman said that a house down the block was used as a drop house and was being guarded by an armed man.

The one that got me was the woman who said that her daughter had been threatened with a knife and that her son was "vandalized." It reminded me of the guy in Blazing Saddles who warned about "women being stampeded and cattle being raped."

After listening to the crowd, Councilman Fernandez said, "I did not know these things were happening. You people have a lot of problems."

However, there was a bright side. A woman from Bisbee spoke about how she has never felt unsafe. She said that in some countries she has visited, foreigners are treated almost like royalty. She suggested a "spiritual idea" involving leaving bags of grain with American flags in them just outside of our doors to welcome the travelers.

Come on, admit it: We haven't tried that approach yet.

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