The killing of an Arizona rancher on his property last weekend has re-ignited a national conversation about illegal immigration and border security.Robert Krentz was shot to death on Saturday on his ranch near Douglas, Arizona, and near the U.S.-Mexico border. He had been working on his property, traveling in an all-terrain vehicle when his brother, who was also working on the ranch, heard Krentz say something over the radio about an "illegal alien" and "hurt."
The brother assumed that Krentz stopped to help an unauthorized immigrant crossing through the ranch, as he often did, the Cochise County Sheriff's Office said.
When Krentz did not show up at a pre-arranged meeting that noon, his family began searching for him before calling authorities to come help.
Near midnight Saturday, a helicopter spotted the rancher's body. He died from a gunshot wound, authorities said. His dog, who was also shot, was critically wounded.
Authorities followed a set of tracks from the scene that led them 20 miles south, to the Mexican border.
The killing shook the local community, and could have ramifications for the wider debate on how the Obama Administration is handling border security and immigration.
Krentz "was a kind and caring man. We're all just taken aback by this whole thing," Dan Bell, who also owns a ranch near the border, told CNN.
"It's indescribable, we're in shock."
Immigration restriction advocates and others calling for a more tightly controlled border say the killing is evidence that border security is too lax.
"There's a lot of blood on the hands of the amnesty-supporting open borders lobby politicians like (Sen.) John McCain, (Department of Homeland Security Secretary) Janet Napolitano, (Sen.) Lindsey Graham, (Sen.) Charles Schumer, (former President George) Bush, and (President Barack) Obama," William Gheen, president of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, said in a statement.
"We want our southern border secured now to save American jobs, property, wages, health, and lives!"
Former Rep. Tom Tancredo, a Colorado Republican and now chairman of the Rocky Mountain Foundation, said, "A purposeful blind eye has been turned to the border."
"If the federal government was doing what it was supposed to do as far as border security, would this have happened?" Tancredo told CNN, speaking of Krentz's death.
Tancredo, Gheen and others are calling a swift federal response, such as deploying National Guard troops to the border, as has been done in the past, to back up the region's law enforcers.
Especially in the Arizona region, illicit traffic in people and drugs is high, as heightened enforcement in other parts of the border has funnelled people that way.
"Anytime you have the murder of a law-abiding American citizen, it's of grave concern to us all," John Morton, assistant homeland security secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), told CNN.
The government already has a large contingent of resources at the Arizona border, he said, adding that ICE is actively investigating the case of Krentz's killing.
The agency is offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to the apprehension of the person or persons responsible. This is in addition to a $15,000 reward being offered by the Arizona Cattlemen's Association.
Already this year, ICE and Customs and Border Protection have seen 22 percent increases in cash and firearms seizures, and a 14 percent increase in drug seizures,compared to last year, Morton said.
"I've never seen such a devotion of resources to the border," he said.
But critics like Tancredo want to see more. The former congressman called for the firing of Napolitano because, in his opinion, she doesn't care about border security. He also supports mandatory citizenship verification of all employees, in addition to the use of troops along the border.
Immigration advocates are approaching the Krentz killing from another perspective.
"We're trying to encourage people not to jump to conclusions before the results of the investigation are in," Jennifer Allen, executive director of the Border Action Network, told CNN.
Contrary to what anti-immigration voices say, what happened in Arizona is a reminder of the need for comprehensive immigration reform, she said.
If there was a path to citizenship for the millions of unauthorized immigrants in the United States and a legal framework for workers to come to the United States, it would filter the kind of people crossing the border
illegally, Allen said.
"If we can take the immigrant element out of the equation, we can focus on the criminal element," she said.
Outside of the national debate on immigration and border security, in Cochise County, the sheriff's department, together with ICE, continued to investigate Krentz's death.
There was still no known motive, sheriff's spokeswoman Carol Capas told CNN.