FALFURRIAS, Texas – As the Trump administration moves forward with construction plans for a border wall, ranchers in South Texas are getting a seat at the table to ensure they have a say in border security.
Brooks County rancher Ricardo Gutierrez is no stranger to illegal immigration.
He’s seen undocumented immigrants use his ranch for decades. Their presence sometimes leads to police chases that end up damaging his property.
“On my land, it happens anywhere from six to 10 to 12 times a year,” said Gutierrez.
Broken fences, damaged railings, and cut barbed wire are an ongoing problem that, he said, worsened during the months leading up to the presidential election.
“We see it constantly and now it’s been less and less,” he said.
Gutierrez showed us around his 1,000-acre property, land he said is typically crossed by undocumented immigrants who want to avoid being caught.
He pointed to Farm to Market road 755 and Brooks County road 315, an intersection, he said, is commonly used as a smuggling route.
It typically starts at the border in Starr County, now considered a hot spot for illegal crossings, where technology and agents make up for the lack of fencing. Smugglers transport migrants about 70 miles north into ranchlands, where they must trek through sand and brush for several days to bypass the last Border Patrol checkpoint in Falfurrias, Texas.
Gutierrez shared his concerns at a roundtable meeting Monday in neighboring Rio Grande City, between property owners, elected officials, and law enforcement. They all agreed that increased border security was in everyone’s best interest, but there was disagreement on how to enforce it.
“The reduction in illegal immigration that we’re seeing right on the border should be reflected along your lands 70 miles up,” said Border Patrol RGV sector Chief Manuel Padilla, addressing Gutierrez.
That reduction, of about 70 percent according to the Department of Homeland Security’s latest estimates, has helped Gutierrez feel more at ease.
“Some people say that it’s because of President Trump and I don’t agree with that,” said Gutierrez. “I think it’s the technology and the Border Patrol.”
But more than anything, Gutierrez wants a comprehensive solution to illegal immigration. He said countless people die needlessly in this area searching for a better life.
“Mostly all the people that get dropped here, don’t know where they’re at. They don’t know anything,” he said. “It’s a horrible experience, you know? And I feel for these people.”
There’s still a long road ahead before any construction begins on a border barrier, but land owners don't want to waste any more time. They want to meet with border patrol as often as possible and hopefully influence the process.
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