The Rio Grande
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America’s Border: Do We Really Need Greater Security? (A report from my trip to the border in 2012)

In the 2016 election, border security is a big issue. One candidate wants America to move toward a One World paradigm with open borders. The other candidate claims that our borders need to be secured. He’s talked about building a border wall between Mexico and the U.S., greatly boosting the number of border agents, and returning convicted criminal aliens to their home countries. Is he right to think that these steps (and others) are really needed? I felt it was time to offer my own experience on this issue.

A few years ago, a report was published by General Barry McCaffrey, a former Drug Czar, and retired general Robert Scales that described the border situation in the most vivid terms. The report is titled Texas Border Security: A Strategic Military Assessment. In addition to documenting the true situation experienced by ranchers along the border of Mexico in Texas, the report described the measures that would be needed to secure the border and return control of this region to Americans.

To provide you with an idea of the necessity or lack of thereof of increased border security, I have compiled some excerpts from this report (in italics) to which I will add some of my own experience. I gained this experience because in 2012, I loaded up my pickup truck and drove by myself to the border to take a look.

The Cartels

Mexican drug cartels are a constantly shifting collection of groups. From year to year, as top men are murdered or incarcerated, one group loses its position and another gains ground and territory. As they strive to move their addictive and deadly products into the United States, they also strive to control the all-important ground immediately on either side of the border.

But drugs are not the only criminal activity these cartels are involved in. As noted in the generals’ report, cartel members have also been arrested for home invasions, robbery, kidnapping, murder, extortion, money laundering and transporting dangerous individuals from countries whose governments are antipathetic to the United States.

Americans pay a huge price for these crimes. Tens of thousands of foreign nationals sit in our prisons. The Federal government spends more than a billion dollars a year on their incarceration.

Along the Border

The Texas-Mexico border is incredibly remote from urban centers like Dallas and Houston. The only people out there are ranchers, their employees and their families. These are the people who bear the brunt of violent cartel efforts to control this region. The generals’ report was, therefore, commissioned by the Texas Department of Agriculture.

The report notes that ranchers “see most of the intruders on their land as men tattooed with the marks of cartels, gangs and in some cases Hezbollah members. They are confronted often with border-crossers who demand to use their phones or trucks. Texas homes are now surrounded by strangers who harass the owners until they concede their land for use by the cartels. Farmers refuse to travel at night.”

When I finished reading this report in 2012, you could say I lost my mind. I was incensed. I closed up my home in Florida and drove to McAllen, Texas, a town that sits right on the border. To get to McAllen, you drive due south from Austin another five hours along US-281, the only through highway in this part of the state. This is utterly desolate, empty country. About 75 miles north of McAllen sits a border inspection station in Falfurrias, the county seat of Brooks County. When people and drugs make their way into the U.S. along this corridor, they must evade the inspections imposed on all the cars passing through this station. Illegal immigrants trying to relocate into the U.S. are dropped off far to the south of this inspection station and are picked up far to the north. Their guides were paid to get them into the country but they also load them up with portable shipments of drugs to carry on their backs when that was not part of the original plan or agreement. This region is rugged and very dry. Many people perish from exposure, dehydration, exhaustion, injury or assault during this trip.

From the report: “Illegal immigrants from Mexico, Central and South America, Pakistan, India, Africa, China and elsewhere turn up day and night. Rival gangs fight for valuable Brooks County territory to smuggle and also to steal oil from the oil fields and tap pipelines. Decaying human remains litter the landscape. The cost of autopsies and burials of illegal immigrants and the medical treatment [for] smuggling survivors drain the County’s meager budget. Smugglers regularly cross ranches to move their loads around the checkpoint, cutting fences, breaking water lines and sometimes stealing vehicles. Encounters by ranchers with groups of menacing strangers are commonplace. The situation is so bad that owners of a ranch in Brooks County packed up and left their 38,000 acre ranch because the area has become, as they described it, a war zone. Their home had been broken into, their land littered with garbage and the distinct sounds of gunfire could be heard from their front porch day and night.”

I interviewed Dr. and Mrs. Vickers, ranchers in the vicinity of the Falfurrias station. She told me that she never travels on her own ranch without large dogs and a gun. He told me that he and his neighbors patrol a large area as part of a group named Texas Border Volunteers. When they found illegals on their properties, they would call the Border Patrol who, in his words, if they had gas for their vehicles, would come and pick them up. You can find the Facebook page for the Volunteers here:

Dr. Vickers told me about “rape trees.” This is a tree on the ranch that has women’s underwear hung from it. The guides for the illegals choose one or two women from the group, separate them from the crowd, rape and murder them. Their underwear is hung from the tree overhead as warnings to others passing through. The ranchers in this area regularly find the bodies of those who angered or offended the guides or those whose only “crime” was being female.

On the Rio Grande

I’m talking to a tall, straight man in his 70s who owns and runs a sugar cane ranch right on the border. The border wall you may have seen photos of is actually located in the midst of his ranch. He has sugar cane and other crops on both sides. America is actually located on both sides of this fence as it is not placed precisely on the border in all areas.

Ironically, sugar cane is the perfect height to hide humans as they make their illegal entries. In the photo above, we are looking over the top of the border fence at his fields.

border patrol

The Border Patrol patrols the border fence .

In fact, some illegals making their way into America hide in the sugar cane fields by day and move by night. The fields have these signs posted (see below) to avoid burning those who might be hiding in the fields. At the time of my visit, there were open gates along the border wall so the farmers could get to their lands. Illegals could walk right through these gates, reach the sugar cane fields and hide. sugar cane in texas

The rancher drove me down to the Rio Grande and showed me where the cartels bring their inflatable boats up to his side of the river so they can unload their people and cargo. (The photo at the top of this article is the Rio Grande seen from the same point.) As they climb the bank, they break up his drainage pipe and create this erosion.

Where the cartels climb the bank.

He told a story about an encounter between his employees and Mexicans on the other side of the river. Shots were fired from the Mexican side, directed toward his ranch. His employees hit the dirt and crawled under their truck, staying there until the Mexicans stopped firing. He told me that if he sees cartel activity, he doesn’t report it. He leaves them alone. His family is too vulnerable to retribution.

He said that Border Patrol agents are not allowed to shoot across the border, even if they are fired upon. People trying to make their illegal ways across the border may rain down rocks on Border Patrol agents and they can’t do anything about it except move out of range. Not every politician agrees with this restraint. At one point, the Governor of Texas sent the Texas Rangers to the border to deal with disturbances caused by the cartels. As the farmer described the conversation, the Rangers asked the Governor what they should do if they are fired on. The Governor replied, “Fire back!”

The generals’ report confirms this point. One of the ranchers interviewed for their report stated: “But the Border Patrol, I could tell you that their hands are tied about a lot of stuff. They have to call Washington; even if they are having a gunfight down at the river, they are on the phone. They have to call Washington. The border patrol have boats on the river. They patrol the river. They are not allowed to pick up anybody that’s in the water unless they are dead. If there’s drug guys loading drugs, all they have to do is step out and wade out in the water and Border Patrol can’t touch them. They are not allowed to go into the water… and they can’t do anything about it.”

The report further describes cartel interference of their employees: “Three men approached one of our excavator operators and asked him what he was doing. He said ‘Well, I’m doing my job,’ and they said, ‘Well, we need you to cease excavating, stop clearing the trees and please move off.’ They said ’OK’, and they said, ‘We’ll be back in about four hours and you need to stop and be gone. And if you’re not gone, then we’ll deal with you then.’ It’s a big concern for me because I’ve got three employees who work down there (along the river) and I’m worried about the employees. I don’t want them to get hurt, injured or even killed.”

For me, one of the most terrifying sentences in Department of Agriculture report was this: “The cartels seek to create a ‘sanitary zone’ inside the Texas border — one county deep — that will provide sanctuary from Mexican law enforcement and, at the same time, enable the cartels to transform Texas’ border counties into narcotics transshipment points for continued transport and distribution into the continental United States.” This is our country but non-Americans want to dominate over our citizens and law enforcement personnel so they can engage in drug and human trafficking.

The police in McAllen, Texas use this mobile tower to watch for illegals moving through town. McAllenn police tower

Note: an earlier version of this article included the sugar cane farmer’s name. He asked me not to use his name so the cartels would never have any reason to come after him. His name has been removed.

About Human Trafficking

From this report: “Three-quarters of all aliens who come into the U.S. from terrorist countries, mostly the Middle East, are captured in Texas along the U.S.-Mexico border. These are called ‘undocumented referrals’ from ‘special-interest countries’ such as Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and India. Somali intruders pose a particularly troublesome challenge for Texas law enforcement because they often claim political asylum when apprehended and too often are released into the general population without proper vetting.”

Ms. Vickers summed the situation up like this: “We are not secure. The borders are not secure. We are porous. [Individuals from] seventy-five different countries have been apprehended in this area alone. If that doesn’t tell you porous borders, nothing does. My husband calls it an invasion. I’ve looked out here and seen a group of 13 going past. I’ve sat on my back porch and a group of ten go past. It does feel like an invasion.”

You can find the complete report from the Texas Department of Agriculture here:

I believe you can come to your own conclusions about the need for better border security.

A little timeline: 2012: I visited the border. 2016: I wrote the original article based on my notes from that trip. 2023: I added to this article and published it on my current blog. According to every report I see, the situation along the border is a hundred times worse than it was in 2012 and it was desperate then.

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