Homeland Security

Fear, Crime, and Chaos Pervasive for Border Ranchers

barn under dark clouds with a lightning bolt beside itFrank DuBois
The Westerner
March 4, 2019

The U.S. border with Mexico is just under 2,000 miles. Look at a land ownership map of New Mexico and Arizona and you will see that much of that land is federally owned, which automatically involves federal lands ranchers in the many border issues currently being discussed.

What is it really like to ranch on this border today?

In a recent interview Russell Johnson, a fourth-generation rancher from near Columbus, New Mexico explained the problems he has experienced:

° People have broken into buildings and homes
° Cattle theft is a big issue since much of the border is only a barbed wire fence
° Vehicles have been stolen
° In instances where the illegal immigrants get lost or are forced to drop out of the group, they set grass fires to signal for help
° Fences that divide pastures have been cut
° Floats and water towers have been destroyed, draining water systems for cattle.
° When entering the U.S. clips are removed and the wires are stood on for vehicles to pass, but if the Border Patrol is encountered they turn around and “just barrel through it."

Eighty-three year old Warner Glenn’s family first moved to the Arizona-Mexico border area in 1896. Glenn says that while illegal immigration has always occurred in the area, the ones coming through now are “hard-core”, especially the “drug guys.”

Glenn tells CBN News that, if they go by a residence and “there's nobody there, they are going to go in and look around. And firearms, top of the list, any kind of jewelry, top of the list, cash, top of the list…"

"We don't lock the doors because they'd just break the window anyway," says Billy Grossman, another rancher in the area. Grossman’s says illegal crossers have entered his home several times and he recently caught one trying to steal his pickup. After law enforcement arrived, Grossman found a bail of marijuana in the back of his truck and quite a few items that had been stolen from his home.

Matt Thomas, a Pinal County deputy, says, "They've gotten more advanced and there are more numbers. They set up their own networks now and they pretty much control the terrain and those networks. They have good control of them visually which means that if we go in by air or by land they know that and so they can adjust they can shut down operations and they can maneuver around us."

Joel Edwards, a County Commissioner in Hidalgo County, New Mexico, tells us pretty much the same thing.  “The cartels have a lot of the latest technology; the people that are coming across, they have sophisticated communication equipment. They’re not just desperate migrants. These people are … up on technology, they’re up on weaponry. Their loads that they’re carrying are worth thousands and thousands of dollars. They are protecting it because that’s how they’re making their money,” Edwards explains.

This was all recently confirmed by reporters from KPHO who set out to see if there really were scouts for the cartels residing in the U.S. It didn’t take them long to find one, just south of Phoenix. One of the reporters actually entered one of their camps. He reports:

“What I see amazes me. It’s like a small military forward operating base. I see gear boxes covered in camouflage material, bags shoved into cracks in the boulders, a kitchen with a stove set up under a rock overhang (I assume to avoid detection by helicopters) and solar panels set out to recharge the scouts’ electronic equipment.”

The ranchers and other inhabitants along the border have been put in this precarious situation by two different Border Patrol policies. One started in El Paso with Operation Hold The Line. Border Patrol agents were placed within eyesight of each other along the Rio Grande for the purpose of diverting illegal immigration from urban areas to the remote areas along the border. This proved to be highly successful, for the urban areas anyway.

The exact opposite approach is used in the remote areas, where the policy is to interdict illegal crossers after they have entered the U.S. and traveled inland for twenty miles or so. The Border Patrol claims this is the most efficient and effective method of apprehension in these remote areas.

The combination of these two policies, driving illegal immigrants to remote areas but not interdicting them at the border, has left folks residing in these areas in a vulnerable situation. This is where we are seeing the reported thefts and vandalism perpetrated against the ranching community. In essence, the border has been moved inland, and these folks are suffering the consequences: homes being entered, vehicles stolen, cattle stolen, interior fences cut, water tanks destroyed and so on. Ranchers have been shot and a hired hand has been kidnapped.

Many of them are living in fear. Commissioner Edwards says, “…they shouldn’t have to live in fear that somebody is going to steal their vehicle or their four-wheeler or their horses, just because they live on an international border.” “Some of my residents go back and forth across the border because they actually have some family on the other side of the border, and they fear retaliation from the cartel if they cooperate and [try] to do something about the border problem”, said Edwards.

These families, in essence, have been abandoned by their country and you can certainly understand why they believe this is an emergency. They are tired of living in an area that has been ceded to the cartels and have every reason to demand immediate action to resolve this untenable situation.

Until next time, be a nuisance to the devil and don’t forget to check that cinch.

Frank DuBois was the NM Secretary of Agriculture from 1988 to 2003, is the author of a blog: The Westerner (www.thewesterner.blogspot.com) and is the founder of The DuBois Rodeo Scholarship and The DuBois Western Heritage Foundation.

This column first appeared on Frank's website, and in the March editions of the NM Stockman and the Livestock Market Digest.

Govern America Radio




Govern America airs Saturdays at 11AM-2PM Eastern or 8AM-11AM Pacific time.

Govern America playlist of latest episodes