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Arizona immigration law and illegal immigrants: state of extremes

Where lawmen Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday mowed down outlaws at the O.K. Corral, Arizona immigration law brings its modern brand of western justice to the issue of illegal immigrants.

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Emotions are running high in the concrete geometry of the cities. And those emotions are matched at the parched, wide-open spaces along the border.

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The San Bernardino Valley is a place of raw beauty and hard living, tucked into the state's southeastern corner, in Cochise County, across the border from Mexico. It's where old Arizona grew on the back of the three C's – cattle, cotton, and copper.

"We can take the heat; a lot of tough, long days, but that's part of living," says Wendy Glenn, a rancher whose calloused hands and tanned face are emblems of a lifetime tending the land. "It's a way of life. Open country, working with animals."

She and her husband, Warner Glenn, a third-generation rancher, run the Malpai Ranch. Most times, it's peaceful around here, a place where cattle outnumber residents and where the rustling of the wind cuts through the loneliness. In the last decade, though, Ms. Glenn says thousands of illegal immigrants have cut across their land. A woman once gave birth in the Glenns' pasture. Others have stopped by the front door for food and water.

On March 27, violence cut through the valley. Glenn's neighbor, a well-respected rancher named Robert Krentz, was gunned down. No suspects have been arrested. Other ranchers believe the murder was committed by an illegal immigrant who fled to Mexico.

The last time Glenn heard from her neighbor was the morning of his death, his voice echoing from a VHF radio used by several families in the valley: "I heard him at 10 a.m. He said there was an illegal out here and to call the border patrol."

When Mr. Krentz didn't return home, the valley families knew there was trouble. Before midnight, his body was located. Trackers, including Glenn's husband and daughter, say they followed the suspect's trail to the border.

Glenn tears up as she says, "He will be sorely missed, a really good guy, intense and a hard worker. What a terrible thing."

Don Kimble, another rancher, misses his friend so much: "I thought my dad was the easiest-going, most common-sense type man in the valley. But that was Rob. There wasn't a nicer guy."

Mr. Kimble and Krentz went to school together at a one-room schoolhouse. Later they served together on the school board.

Kimble is a third-generation rancher whose face is as weathered as the land. There is dirt beneath his fingernails. A band of sweat stains his cowboy hat.

"There's nothing better than a good horse or a good day," he says.

He has no quarrel with illegal immigrants who head north for jobs. But he is angry with the "coyotes" who lead people across the border. He blames them for cutting water lines and damaging fences. And he blames them for the drug trade.

"I've run into an Uzi," he says. "I've run into an AR-15. And I've run into an AK-47. I carry a .38 pistol in my pocket for rattlesnakes. My .38 pistol would be nothing against an AR-15."

He says it was time for a new law. The federal government wouldn't deal with the immigration issue, so the state stepped in. "The government has to protect its citizens. We're just as important as the people in Tucson. There may not be as many of us but we're important. They have to seal the border."

Related stories:

Arizona's new immigration law makes sense

After Arizona, why are 10 states considering immigration bills?

L.A. vs. Arizona: Who wins in immigration law dust-up?

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