Linda Vickers says she never goes outside her home anymore without a gun and her cell phone. The illegal immigrant problem has gotten so bad, Vickers herself has reported 148 illegal immigrants to Border Patrol this year alone.
Vickers and her husband Mike own a ranch just south of Falfurrias. It's where the Texas Border Volunteers, TBV, have their headquarters. TBV is a group of people from across the country who are doing what they can to help with the problem of illegal immigration.
The Texas Border Volunteers was formed seven years ago. Each member has to go through a background check and is carefully screened. They literally post patrols on ranches in Brooks County, watching for illegal immigrants.
If immigrants are spotted, they are quickly reported to Border Patrol. Two man teams post on more than 53,000 acres of ranch land, armed with thermal imaging and night vision scopes. The teams rarely ever come into contact with immigrants, in fact they intentionally try to stay hidden from view.
In the rare cases where they do come into contact it is usually because a group is about to literally walk over their post, or an immigrant is lost, without food or water and in danger of dying. One member of the group say they saved the life of a 14-year-old El Salvadoran boy in March, who was left to die.
We went on four night time patrols with the group. And hour or so before dark, the group gathers and carefully lays out a military style plan. Each post in marked, with the names of the volunteers. Each volunteer has a radio, is assigned a night time visual aide and the plan is set in motion.
About an hour after dark, I was watching through a thermal imaging scope when I spotted an obvious human form roughly 200 yards away. Within a matter of seconds, two more appeared out of the woods. I told the volunteer, with whom I was stationed.
He confirmed it was in fact three people. He radioed another team, in whose direction the three were traveling. Within minutes the team radioed back, confirming they saw one of them. The Border Patrol was then called.
We went back to watching the, now pitch black fields. Roughly half an hour later, our photographer Matt Craig was looking through the thermal imaging scope when he spotted, what he thought was a cow in the road. Our Volunteer looked through his night vision scope and said "that's no cow. Those are humans."
I was handed the thermal and looked. I counted 7 men, walking straight in our direction. We quickly scrambled to hide our gear and make ourselves blend into the brush. Within a minute the group, walking single file down the gravel ranch road, walked less than 30 feet right in front of us.
We called Border Patrol again. Within 15 minutes a Border Patrol vehicle, with two agents, was at our location. They stopped to confirm what we had reported, asked in which direction the group was headed and then sped off after them. We learned the next day they caught eight of the ten we reported.
An hour or so later that night, the chatter on the radio was so loud and excited, I could hear it outside of the ear bug the volunteer we were stationed with was wearing. He told us to hurry and load our gear. A group of 36 immigrants had almost walked over another post about 5 miles from where we were stationed.
We loaded up and soon the four seat, Ranger UTV we were riding in was flying down the same ranch road, where immigrants had just walked. The lights on the vehicles were off as we and the rest of the volunteers stationed in our area raced to the scene.
When we arrived there were already several vehicles there, with their headlights shining into the woods, where the group had scattered into. Soon after we arrived, several Border Patrol vehicles arrived. Trackers were sent.
It was not until the next day we learned Border Patrol agents caught 27 of the 36 that were reported. The Texas Border Volunteer, whom the group almost walked over managed to get thermal video of the group as close as 10 feet from him. He also said the group included six Asian women.
In their seven years history the Texas Border Volunteers has reported more than 2,200 illegal immigrants to Border Patrol. They say they will continue to hold their watches and man their overnight posts, until they're no longer needed.
During the three watches, in which we participated the Texas Border Volunteers reported 258 immigrants. Border Patrol caught 169.